Sextortion – a scary new trend
Julissa: Back. Our good friend, Ryan Eldridge, with Nerds on Call with us here. And usually you bring some fun gadgets, or you tell us about some cool apps, but right now you’ve got a serious situation to tell us about.
Julissa: Kids being targeted on Facebook.
Ryan: Yes. Yes, here let me set up a scene for you, okay?
Ryan: Let’s say you’re on Facebook, and you’re cruising around. And, like, you see a nice friend request comes in. And you’re like, “Oh, that person looks kind of familiar.” And you look through their profile, and you notice they’ve got a lot of friends that you have. Maybe they work at the place you work or went to school where you went to school, and you’re like, “Oh, yeah, okay. I’ll accept that friend request.”
Julissa: Okay, they know so-and-so. I must know, okay.
Ryan: And they start a chat with you, and they start talking to you about what’s going on in their life and a nice little thing. Well, it turns out the profile that they set up is fake. And once they know who you are, they target you, target all of your friends, try to get friends with them, set up a little fake profile. And then they say, “Hey, let’s take this to Skype. Let’s have a little chat. Let’s do some video calling. Yeah, I wanna see you face-to-face.”
Julissa: I wanna see you face-to-face.
Ryan: And you guys start talking, and it gets a little flirtatious. Next thing you know, she starts taking off her clothes, and she’s like, “Hey, maybe you should take your clothes off, too.” And you’re like, “Hey, okay, that sounds kinda fun. Let’s give that a shot.” As soon as you do something compromising, the video suddenly stops, and you get a message that says, “I’m gonna post this to all your friends and I’m gonna ruin your life unless you pay me some money.”
Now, this is happening right now. There was a guy in San Francisco this happened to in May, and he was extorted for $5,000 from some people in the Philippines. For $5,000, he had to pay them, or they would send this video to all of his friends and family on Facebook. And he was like, “What do I do?” Right? So one of the things that happens is you gotta remember is that, when you’re in front of your computer, anything you put online can be shared at any time. Anybody can record anything.
Julissa: Once it’s out there, it’s out there.
Ryan: Yeah, and why this is really important for kids is because kids don’t necessarily have the same thought process as adults.
Julissa: Right. If we see something, we can kind of, “Oh, I don’t know that person.”
Ryan: And it seems a little weird. I’ve seen this before.
Ryan: But with kids, they’re very trusting. And so if they see it’s someone else on their friend’s list that says, “Oh, yeah, I know Timmy, too. Oh, yeah, Timmy’s cool.” And they start talking to you. So there was a girl in New York this happened to where a man essentially got into a chat with them and then said, “I was gonna choke a kitten in front of you on camera unless you show me your stuff.”
Julissa: Your top, yeah.
Ryan: And, well, she’s like, “I don’t know what to do.” So she did, and as soon as it happened, he said, “Well, I’m gonna send this to all of your friends and everything else unless you pay me or unless you do some other terrible thing.”
Julissa: So how do we protect our kids from doing this? How do we keep this from happening?
Ryan: Well, one of the things you wanna do first is talk to your children. You need to tell them this kind of stuff is out there, that people are gonna try to trick you on purpose. They’re gonna try to get you to do things you don’t wanna do. And anytime you feel uncomfortable, you need to come talk to us. But you need to make them aware that this kind of thing is out there, because they’re trusting online. They see a picture of somebody they know, and they go, “Oh, yeah, I know that person.” But they don’t really know that person.
First thing you wanna do is, if you get an extortion request for something you did online, don’t pay it, because once you do, they’re gonna come back to you and make you pay all the time. Contact YouTube to get the video taken down if they post it to YouTube. Contact the authorities, let them know what happened. They can try to track that person down or that group down and get it to stop. But, first of all, don’t do it. If you’re gonna take your clothes off in front of a camera, know somebody’s probably gonna see that. So don’t do that. And then, of course, talk to your kids. The justice department says that 70% of sextortion cases are related with children. And so it’s not just adults that are being targeted, and kids, they just don’t have the same acumen as we do.
Julissa: Those red flags, right. Yeah.
Ryan: Yeah, so be careful, talk to your kids.
Julissa: That’s like some scary numbers.
Ryan: It’s happening now. Yeah.
Julissa: Yeah, all right. Ryan, thanks so much for making us aware. Very important for all of us to have this conversation, especially as kids are going back into school this time of year, too, where they’re making new friends. All right. Mary Ann, over to you.
Imagine discovering that the new friend you thought you’d connected with over social media was actually a scammer intent on getting dirt to blackmail you with. We are going to discuss andgive you the inside scoop on this new scary trend – web cam sextortion.
So how does this work I hear you asking, well this is a new type of crime nicknamed Sextortion. A scammer sets up fake social media account – typically a pretty girl in photos, single, cute but not desperate, engaging and then gets you to “friend” them. They will create similarities like that they went to the same school, worked at the same large corporation and other fairly easy to disguise biographical information that won’t sound alarm bells. Then they begin sending friend requests to your friend. By the time they send a friend request to you, they appear like someone you may have known or at least went in your circles, so you’re more likely to accept a friend request.
Once they’ve added you, the fun begins! They will start to chat you up and encourage you to move to skype/video chat. The conversation gets flirty, a girl on the video chat with you takes her clothes off to get you comfortable. She convinces you to get risqué, take your clothes off and well… we can all imagine where this will lead.
As soon as you do something you wouldn’t want to be spread all over the internet, the video chat ends and you get a demand for ransom. The scammer sends you a video of what you were just doing and threatens to post the video to YouTube, send links to friends, family & colleagues. This demand is often thousands of dollars!
Anytime you present yourself on camera, it can be recorded by the recipient. In the latest spate of targeting, it’s been reported that the scammers are using data-stealing apps to get access to your full contacts list. This is how that scenario could pan out:
• After starting the video chat, the scammer claims they have audio problems
• They convince you to install an Android app to continue chat
• That app is malware that infects your phone and steals your contacts list
Now in that scenario. they can contact your friends and family directly, outside social media.
So how big is this problem?
Interpol reports that “sextortion” crimes are increasing quoting “hundreds of thousands of victims” each year. Web cam extortion crime is rampant in the Philippines, generally women in poor countries often victimized into participating for money. This is fueled by social media due to:
• Easy access to personal details about you, making it easier to target you with a “social engineering” attack
• Anonymity allows criminals to easily falsify their identity
• If one profile gets taken down, they just set up another. It’s that easy!
• The ability to steal photos and information from other people’s accounts just fuels the scammer’s fire.
This is a real life threatening problem. In 2013, Scottish teen Daniel Perry committed suicide after being targeted by “Sextortion” group out of the Philippines.
What are the options if this happens to you?
Some people choose to pay. Well if you do this they’ll just keep extorting more money from you. The authorities recommend you report it, you can report the activity to YouTube to get the video link taken down, and also to the authorities so that they can try to track down the perpetrator. The problem with this is that the perpetrators are typically overseas, so there is no way to prosecute.
Our best advice: don’t do anything online you wouldn’t want to be public. Lets say it again – don’t do anything online, on video, on your phone, via email or text, ANYWHERE online or digitally that you aren’t prepared for the whole world to see.
Talk to your kids! More than 70% of sextortion victims are minors, according to a Brookings Institution report. Check out our other articles on keeping your teenagers safe online, this would be a great reason to monitor activity on your home network!