I would like to address a big issue I see lately, and that’s the media posting “facts” about sextortion that we know are completely wrong. Sometimes they even get the absolute basics wrong. Just today I read an article that couldn’t even get the main locations of the scammers right. In this blog entry I’m going to give the facts about these scams, based on our having dealt with around 15,000 cases (at the time of writing this, the last form we received was number 14,890). Media people, feel free to quote any of this, so long as you give us credit.
Where are the scammers from? Mainly three areas. Morocco, the Philippines and Ivory Coast. There are other places where they occur, but these are the three areas we see the most activity from. Out of those three, Ivory Coast is the one we’ve seen the biggest rise from in the past year or so.
How common is it? From what we’re seeing, it’s one of the fastest rising scams of the past few years.
How does the scam work? All that’s required are two pieces of software, both of which are free and not exactly hard to find. One tricks your computer into seeing other sources such as a video or part of your screen as a webcam, while one is used to capture the part of the screen the victim’s video is on. Once you have those, all that’s left is to get the source material. Again, it’s incredibly easy to do this. The scammer then goes to a website and invites people into a video chat, usually through Skype. The fake webcam is used, the video is recorded and then the fake webcam source is switched to the video of the person in the act. Then begin the threats of having the video sent to everyone they know unless they pay up. Very few bother uploading the video anymore as simply showing the video to them in Skype has the exact same effect. None of this is difficult, and I have stated numerous times that I could teach anyone how to do this in less than 10 minutes. Neither is it new. I was using an almost identical technique back in 2007 to capture Pinay scammers (female scammers from the Philippines) in he act to post on Youtube.
Individuals or gangs? Both. Some work solo, while some are in organised groups. We’ve seen news reports where entire “nests” have been raided, and we’ve spoken to scammers who work completely on their own.
How much money do the scammers demand? Anything from $50 to $50,000 depending on where they’re from. One of the methods we use to determine where the scammer is from is to see how much money they demand. Ivory Coast scammers for example are likely to demand much larger amounts than others.
Where do they post the videos? In most cases, if the scammer even bothers to upload a video then it’ll be on Youtube. The video will have the person’s name in them, which is why one of the steps we give is to set up a Google alert.
Where do they threaten to post the videos? Often, this is another indicator of where the scammer is from. The scammers are using scripted responses that, in the case of Ivory Coast scammers, can involve threats to post the video on the Ellen Degeneres Facebook page or La Figaro newspaper. Why those two in particulare were picked we have no idea, but they are the ones we see most often.
How hard is it to get rid of the video if they do post it? A lot easier than you’d think. For example, in Youtube, all it usually takes is for the video to be flagged for it to be removed within minutes. Of course this is assuming the video even gets uploaded in the first place.
How did they find out the person’s details? Sometimes, using nothing more than a phone number or email address, the scammer can do a search on Facebook to get the person’s profile. More often than not, they simply ask the person for their profile so they can add them at the start of the scam.
How do they receive the money? Money transfer services most of the time. Western Union or Moneygram tend to be the “go to” companies used.
What happens if the person pays? Most times, the scammer will then come back with demands for more money and even greater amounts. We always tell people not to pay, and this is why.
Have the scammers actually gone ahead with their threats? We won’t lie about it. Yes it does happen on occasion. We have a set of steps that we’ve made that will minimise the chances of it happening, but it’s never going to be 100% effective and also relies on the person finding us as soon as possible after the scam occurs.
Should the person go to the police? Of course. We always say for people to go to the police. The more evidence they receive, the more likely they are to act on it.
What are these steps you talk about? They can be found at blackmailscams.com and basically comprise these three things:
Block the scammer and disappear from social media for a set amount of time, depending on where the scammer was from and if you paid.
Set up alerts to warn you if the scammer ever does post anything up.
When you do return, make sure the scammer can’t find you again.
It’s much more complicated than that, but that’s it in a nutshell.
And they work? Not 100% as we said earlier, but certainly if done right and early enough then we estimate a 99.9% success rate based on the number of people who have come back to say the scammer got back in touch with them after doing everything.
Should the scammer accounts be reported and deleted? Oh good grief, no! This is one of the biggest issues we have with a lot of reports. What use do you think that’ll do? They’ll simply set up a new one in minutes, or already have a bunch ready made just like in this example:
If you want more information, then feel free to contact me by using this link.