Beware! 'Sextortion' rackets thriving big time on social media

Beware! 'Sextortion' rackets thriving big time on social media

The next time an attractive stranger entices you with an innocuous “hello, how are you” on Twitter or Facebook, step back and press that pause button. You could be the next victim of sextortion, a racket that preys on unsuspecting male social media users, who are hoodwinked to perform sexual acts before a webcam or mobile camera and later blackmailed for money.

The worldwide surge in sextortion cases has hit India too, but the cyber crime police are yet to get cracking. Reason: threatened with exposure of their explicit videos on YouTube and other platforms, the victims prefer shelling out huge extortion money in dollars rather than lodge complaints.

Here’s how this sinister scam unfolds: Posing as a female, the scammer gets into the victim’s social circle as a friend or a mutual follower. The scammer then invites the victim to a private chat, which quickly moves from casual to intimate.

Once the scammer gains the victim’s confidence, the latter is enticed into a video chat. To convince the victim that everything is happening in real time, a suitable, pre-recorded/stolen video footage of a female (matching the scammer’s profile picture) is played. The victim is then asked to play along.

This way, the victim is duped into stripping and acting inappropriately in a sexually explicit manner on webcam. Unknown to the victim, the scammer records the entire footage and plays it back to the victim. The victim is then blackmailed with the threat that the footage would be sent to his friends and family via social networking platforms unless the victim pays up.

Investigation so far indicates that these scams mostly originate from Morocco, Ivory Coast or the Philippines. The scamsters are often male, posing as female with footage of scantily-clad pretty chat partners sourced from the Internet. There are also softwares that enables a small degree of interaction so long as the other person only asks for simple tasks such as ‘wave to me,’ ‘touch your nose’ or ‘blow me a kiss.’

Sextortion victims, mostly male, rarely approach the cyber crime police to lodge complaints. Cyber law consultant, Na Vijayshankar said such cases are not being studied systematically by the department here. “A few individual cases were reported in Chennai and Hyderabad. If a few cases are consolidated, NGOs can take the lead to respond appropriately,” he said.

Anecdotal evidence has surfaced indicating marital problems sparked by such cases in Bengaluru. An IT executive’s accidental discovery of her husband sharing her pictures in a sexual chat with an online friend eventually led to the couple’s divorce.

DH News Service

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