Hacking, Information Security

ONLINE SEX CRIME What is sextortion, how common is webcam blackmail and how to keep yourself safe online?

POLICE warned every year peoples are being targeted by organized gangs tricking people into stripping off or performing sex acts online and using the footage as blackmail.

What is sextortion?

Sextortion is a form of blackmail where criminals use fake identities to befriend victims online – using websites such as Facebook, Skype, Tinder, Linkedin or any other famous social Platform or Application – before persuading them to perform sexual acts in front of their webcam. These webcam images are recorded by the criminals who then threaten to share them with the victims’ friends and family unless they are paid. Sometimes there are escalating requests for further payment. At least four suicides in the UK have been linked to this form of blackmail.

The gangs, based in Morocco, the Philippines and the Ivory Coast, use “honey trap” actors to lure their victims in and record the images before threatening to share them with the victims’ friends and family unless they accede to their demands for payment.

Most appear to single out victims based on their “ability to pay” and because “they have something to lose” and ransom demands range from a few hundred to a few thousand pounds or dollars.

How Exactly “Sextortion” Works?

The young scammers learn English by watching YouTube videos and then target victims in the UK, US etc. They trick unsuspecting men into performing sex acts which are surreptitiously recorded. They then blackmail their victims by threatening to circulate the tapes among friends and family on Facebook.

While talking to Ritesh Bhatia, a well-known Cyber Crime Investigator, Cyber Security Expert and Data Privacy Consultant. He said that a lot of cases of sextortion are coming up and there are many victims who are not involved also. Cybercriminals use a technique using an app called “DeepFakes” and “morph faces” and make very real looking porn movies with our faces. A similar thing had happened to Piyush Shrivastva(name changed) and he was being blackmailed and when he spoke to Ritesh Bhatia, Mr. Bhatia said to ignore such people and instead warn everyone that criminals are extorting money from innocent people. he also suggest don’t fall into hands of such criminals and avoid posting full length images.

Also, According to a report in The Sun newspaper, a high number of cybercrime gangs have sprung up in the Moroccan town of Oued Zem.

It said the town has an incredible 3,000 blackmailers in a population of 90,000 and almost all 360 arrests in the country last year for such crimes were made there.

One convicted blackmailer told the Sun the criminals were targeting the UK “because British men pay more”.

He said: “At school, pupils are paying more attention in English and after lessons go home and watch YouTube videos. If they can speak English they will earn more money.”

Another, Hamza Danjer, 19, told the Sun his gang created fake Facebook accounts under different names but using the same pictures of Colombian porn star Dayana Perez Sosa, without her knowledge.

They then contacted men across the globe before suggesting a Skype session.

Hamza said: “We had a video of the porn star taking part in a real webcam session.

“We used a computer programme which meant the victim would see that video and not us.

“The man was completely hooked and thought he was talking to a real woman.

“After a while the woman would tell the man she was feeling aroused. Just about every man fell for it.”

He said around four in ten men paid around £800 to have the clip destroyed.

The National Crime Agency said there were 1,245 reports to cops last year compared to 385 in 2015.

But experts reckon the true figure is 10 times that, with many duped men too ashamed to come forward.

Police and the NCA have uncovered evidence that organised crime groups, largely based overseas in countries including the Philippines, Ivory Coast and Morocco, are behind a large proportion of sextortion attempts.

Advice for victims

  • DON’T PANIC – The police will take your case seriously, will deal with it in confidence and will not judge you for being in this situation. You are not alone.
  • DON’T PAY – Many victims who have paid have continued to get more demands for higher amounts of money. In some cases, even when the demands have been met the offenders will still go on to post the videos. If you have already paid, check to see if the money has been collected. If it has, and if you are able, then make a note of where it was collected from. If it hasn’t, cancel the payment.
  • DON’T COMMUNICATE further with the criminals. Take screen shots of all your communication. Suspend your Facebook account (but don’t delete it) and use the online reporting process to report the matter to Skype, YouTube etc. to have any video blocked and to set up an alert in case the video resurfaces. Deactivating the Facebook account temporarily rather than shutting it down will mean data is preserved and will help police to collect evidence.
  • PRESERVE EVIDENCE – Make a note of all details provided by the offenders and DO NOT DELETE ANY CORRESPONDENCE.

And finally, remember, you are the victim of organised criminals, you are not alone and confidential support is available.

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