The FBI IC3 (Internet Crime Complaint Center) raised an alert about a great surge in sextortion complaints since January 2021, which has led to a total financial loss of around $8 Million till July. FBI got over 16000 complaints of sextortion until July, most of them coming from the age group of 20-39. “Victims over 60 years comprised the third largest reporting age group, while victims under the age of 20 reported the fewest number of complaints,” says FBI. Sextortion happens when potential victims are blackmailed by criminals in person or through dating sites, emails, and online chats that may expose sensitive or private photos/videos if the victims fail to pay the ransom.
Started with an email scam, the Sextortion incident came to light in July 2018, when criminals started mailing victims threatening that they had proof of them surfing adult sites (which include victim passwords exposed through data leaks) to get credibility. Email sextortion campaign scammers also distributed various malware strains that range from ransomware to data-stealing trojans. As per the majority of the victims, the initial contact with the criminal is mutual as it is made via dating apps and websites. After the interaction, the criminal then requests the target to connect on some other platform for conversation.
According to the FBI, “the fraudster instigates the exchange of sexually explicit material and then encourages the victim to participate via video chat or send their own explicit photos. Immediately after the victim complies, the fraudster blackmails the victim and demands money to prevent the release of the photos or videos on social media.” The victims have it even worse, as the criminal may also get access to the target’s social media account or contact no. They threaten the victims to leak sensitive images which the criminals possess and show them to the victim’s friends and family.
If any user ends up as a victim in such situations, they are advised to immediately stop all contact with the criminal, they should immediately report the incident to authorities and register a complaint at FBI IC3 as soon as the sextortion incident happens. To be safe from such incidents FBI suggests:
•NEVER send compromising images of yourself to anyone, no matter who they areâ or who they say they are.
•Do not open attachments from people you do not know. Links can secretly hack your electronic devices using malware to gain access to your private data, photos, and contacts, or control your web camera and microphone without your knowledge.
•Turn off your electronic devices and web cameras when not in use.