How to deal with Sextortion Scams - Dispatch Weekly

March 19, 2019 - Reading time: 5 minutes

The 21st Century has seen an explosion in the field of technology being used for good, but it has also been used by scammers to exploit vulnerable and lonely people. Following on from our previous Sextortion Scam article we look at how to stay safe if it, unfortunately, happens to you.

How does it happen?

Criminals will befriend victims online by utilizing a fake identity and then persuade them to perform sexual acts in front of the webcam. Scammers often use images or videos of attractive women or men to entice the victim to participate. The also use emotional blackmail targeting people who are vulnerable, forming close and personal bonds with them.

These webcam videos are recorded and used to blackmail the victim by threatening them to share the images with the victim’s friends and family. Unfortunately, these scams are becoming more common and more sophisticated.

The best way to avoid becoming a victim is to be aware of whom you befriend online, especially if you’re considering sharing anything intimate with them.

How to deal with it?

The following steps provide a guide of how to best react to sextortion attacks if they occur.

Step One – Take a step back

First of all, don’t panic. Take a step back and realize how everything can be handled. Contact your local police and internet service provider as soon as possible. The police should take your case seriously and you shouldn’t worry about being embarrassed as no one is there to judge you but only to help you.

Step Two – Suspend & Report

Under no circumstance should you continue to communicate with the criminals. Save any conversations you had with them. Immediately suspend your Facebook account but do not delete it. If the video is on Skype or YouTube etc. use the online reporting process to report any video and have it blocked. You should also get them to set up an alert in case the video resurfaces. It’s in your best interest to deactivate your Facebook temporarily rather than completely getting rid of because data will be preserved which police use to collect evidence.

Later you can reactivate your account and all your memories will be preserved. Also, keep an eye on your other accounts linked to Facebook in case the criminals try to contact you via one of those.

Step Three – Don’t Pay Immediately

Many people make the mistake of paying the amount of money the criminal demands for, however, there is no promise that these criminals will not just extort you for more money. Even if the demand is met the criminals will sometimes still post the video. In case you have paid already check if the money has been collected. If it has, you may track where the money has been collected and if hasn’t, cancel the payment as soon as possible.

Step Four – Keep The Evidence

Always keep any evidence, for example, write down all the details the offender provided. You would take down the name, the Facebook URL; the Western Union or MoneyGram Money Transfer Control Number (MTCN); any photos/videos that are sent, etc. Make sure you take a note of the Skype ID and not the Skype name as the police need the ID.

Remember that you’re a victim of organized criminals and you’re not alone, many have been victimized. Confident support is available; by staying calm and following these steps you will able to stay safe.

How are Facebook Tackling It?

These attacks have become such serious issues, particularly with the rise of social media that the platforms themselves are taking action to limit the damage. In 2018 Facebook announced plans to tackle Sextortion as well as “Revenge porn” by trialling a faster method of taking images down. The trial began in Australia and it involved a user sending their personal images that they were worried would be leaked, to Facebook who would give the image a code and store this code in a database, deleting the original image. In theory, this would mean that if someone was to try and post the same image, Facebook could block them from doing so or react more quickly to the event. Hypothetically this should be effective however it relies on you having the image, which is not always the case, and being comfortable sending Facebook such personal images.

The best way to stay safe from these attacks is still to never send such images to anyone that you don’t know. And if you become part of this scam remember to stay calm, collect as much information as possible and report the scammers.

DW Staff

David Lintott is the Editor-in-Chief, leading our team of talented freelance journalists. He specializes in covering culture, sport, and society. Originally from the decaying seaside town of Eastbourne, he attributes his insightful world-weariness to his roots in this unique setting.