Beware of Sextortion…….!!
The cyber crime has reached dangerous proportions in today’s internet-driven times of great connectivity and super-fast access to netizens across the globe. Needless to say, the internet-powered social media has made life a lot easier for people, but, at the same time, the internet has exposed its users to new problems and crimes too.
Sextortion has emerged as a rising form of online abuse whereby a cyber-criminal reaches out to the victims online through the misuse of dating apps, social media channels, etc, initiates or encourages the victims to have intimate audio/video chats and lures them to pose nude in front of the camera of their phones or webcam of their laptops and then, records the same to blackmail the victims in future. Both men and women can be the victims of this crime and the basic aim of sextortion is to harass, embarrass and blackmail for financial gains or coerce them into performing sexual acts. The perpetrator in the cases of the sextortion can be both known or unknown to the victim.
The modus operandi of cyber-criminals engaged in sextortion is diversified and cleverly crafted to exploit the victims over the long term.
1) Messaging apps – The victims are lured by the scammers through messages for video/audio chat. These messages are in the form of - video call : 30 minutes for Rs 1000, sex chat : 30 minutes for Rs. 500, Demo nude with face, if you are interested, pay this number, etc. Here, the victims pay for the service and may pose nude in video call, which is mischievously recorded by the scammer or screenshots are saved of the chats. Subsequently, the scammers then resort to blackmailing of the victims, leading to sextortion.
2) Dating apps- The dating sites like ‘shaadi.com’, apps like ‘bumble’ , ‘tinder’ , etc. are being used by scammers to open fake accounts which are misused by them to initiate contact with the vulnerable victims. Thinking these accounts to be genuine, the victims start chatting with these fake accounts and often proceed to participate in video calling with the scammers wherein the victims are subsequently encouraged to pose nude in front of the scammer who then records his/her videos and takes pictures causing sextortion.
3) Social media platforms – Fake pages, looking highly attractive and appealing, are often created by the cyber criminals on the social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter to target the young and vulnerable users. Many a times, ad campaigns are also run on the social media sites by the cyber criminals to target the users. Victims often fall prey of such deceptively attractive posts/ accounts, and end up revealing their personal, intimate pictures/ videos which cyber criminals misuse to blackmail the victims.
4) Porn sites- It has been observed that users of porn sites are many a times sent blackmailing e-mail messages by the cyber criminals. Through these emails, the victims are threatened to expose their activity on porn sites public and money (usually in cryptocurrency) is demanded from them as compensation. The option of sex chat/ video calls is also offered by many porn sites which is then misused to blackmail the victims.
Suggestions to avoid becoming a victim of extortion -
1) It is advisable that one should exercise extreme caution while making friends online and never pose nude, share intimate pictures over online video calls/ social media platforms with unknown/ know persons. Your negligence or indulgence in sharing nude videos can be misused by the cyber-criminals for blackmailing and seeking money from you.
2) It is prudent to avoid clicking or saving intimate/ nude/ semi-nude photos/ videos on your phone or laptops, which if leaked, can cause severe embarrassment.
3) If you happen to be a victim of sextortion, immediately report to the nearby police station or on www.cybercrime.gov.in . Never feel panicked, shy or hesitate in filing a complaint or contacting the nearest police station due to shame, embarrassment and self-blame. The police officers will not judge you or blame you.
4) Use the ‘Report User’ option over the social media platform to report any such fake or suspicious accounts involved in sextortion.
5) Stop all the communication with the cyber-criminals: 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 the data are preserved and will help police to collect evidence. The account can also be reactivated at any time so your online memories are not lost forever. Also, keep an eye on all the accounts which you might have linked in case the criminals try to contact you via one of those.
6) 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 explicit 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, then you can cancel the payment - and the sooner you do that the better.
7) Preserve evidence. Make a note of all details provided by the offenders, for example; the Skype name (particularly the Skype ID), the Facebook URL; the Western Union or MoneyGram Money Transfer Control Number (MTCN); any photos/videos that were sent, etc. Be aware that the scammer's Skype name is different to their Skype ID, and it's the ID details that police will need. To get that, right click on their profile, select ‘View Profile’ and then look for the name shown in blue rather than the one above it in black. It'll be next to the word ’Skype’ and will have no spaces in it. DO NOT DELETE ANY CORRESPONDENCE.
Lastly, sextortion can happen to anyone; nobody is immune. Therefore, always exercise due caution and take necessary precautions in avoiding becoming a victim of sextortion. And if, still, you happen to become a victim, then, do not fear or feel shy about reporting it to your nearest police station.
( The writer is the author of best-seller book , 'New India- The Reality Reloaded ' )
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