Sextortion – a scary new trend

By: , CEO and co-founder of Nerds On Call, an on-site computer and laptop repair service company.

Video Transcript

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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!

About The Author:
AndreaAndrea Eldridge is CEO and co-founder of Nerds On Call, an on-site computer and laptop repair service company for consumers and businesses. Andrea is the writer of two weekly columns: Computer Nerds On Call, a nationally syndicated column for Scripps-Howard News Service, and Nerd Chick Adventures in The Record Searchlight. She regularly appears on ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, The CW, and CNN on shows such as Good Day Sacramento, Good Morning Arizona, and Good Day Portland, offering viewers easy tips on technology, Internet lifestyle, and gadgets. Andrea recently has begun working with Demand Media to produce content for eHow.com and has written a book for them: Smartphone 101: Integrating Your iPhone Into a Windows World. Andrea is available for Q & A’s, expert tech quotes and will appear on your show. Call today! See Andrea in action at callnerds.com/andrea/.

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