What is a blackmail scam/sextortion?
blackmail scams/sextortion are becoming a common trend among scammers. It's a fast-run scam that can lead to people losing thousands of dollars. The scam involves the victim being duped into stripping and acting in a sexual manner on webcam. The webcam footage is recorded and played back to the victim who sees himself acting inappropriately on video footage. The scammer then uploads the footage to a public video-sharing site and blackmails the victim with the threat to send it to the victim’s friends and family via social networking, unless the victim pays up.How does the scam work?
These scams are most often run by people in Morocco or the Philippines. Despite the assumption that the scammers are female they are, in fact, males abusing stolen video footage of females in order to make the person think they're a female. The footage of a scantily-clad pretty chat partner can be easily obtained with nothing more than a simple internet search. It's even possible to find software that has pre-recorded women and enables a small degree of interaction, so long as the other person only asks for simple tasks such as “wave to me”, “touch your nose”, or “blow me a kiss”.
Armed with this, the scammer needs just two apps to complete his kit. First, he'll get some “virtual webcam” software which he’ll use to broadcast through his webcam, pretending to be the pretty chat partner.
Second, he’ll use another app to record the victim's camera. Both these apps can be downloaded for free.
Next he registers on a site that lets people chat cam-to-cam and starts looking for a victim. If caught on a chat site trying to scam he’s likely be banned so after some chit-chat he lures the victim onto an instant messaging app such as Skype or YIM.
The scammer may ask to be added to the victim’s face book contacts. People have asked us how their scammer managed to find their face book profile when they didn't give it to them. The answer is very simple. The scammer will do a quick search on face book, using the details in the victim's Skype profile. Many people use the same details or username on both, so a search of the victim's Skype details can lead the scammer directly to their profile on face book.
So the scammer plays his pretty chat partner footage down his webcam. The victim responds and, well, we don’t need to go into what the victim is doing at this time although we can predict he will be naked. All this time, the scammer is recording the victim’s webcam footage. The scammer will either play it back to the victim or upload it to a site such as YouTube and send the victim the link.
The scammer demands money and shows a list of the person's friends/family on face book to increase the threat. The scammer demands to be paid through a money transfer site such as Western Union.What should I do if I’ve been targeted?
The first thing to do is take a deep breath, compose yourself and think clearly. Do not panic and closely follow the steps below, without missing any out. Be assured that, at the time of writing, not a single person who’s followed our advice has told us that the footage was actually sent to anyone on their friends list. What we're looking to do is to get the video removed, block the scammer from all avenues of contact and set up an alert in case the video ever does resurface. The last step is purely a precaution, but it's worth doing for peace of mind. So what should you do? The steps are very simple:
1. Do not pay. Those who have paid have said that they came back the next day with demands for even more money.
2. Make a note of the scammer's details so they can be reported in order to help protect others. Skype name, face book URL, any photos that were sent and the details you're given to send the money to will be useful in alerting others.
3. Do not report their profiles to the sites you met them on. This is likely the complete opposite of what you'll want to do, but it's better that their profiles are still active and yet publicised as scammers. If a scammer’s account is deleted, all the scammer will do is make a new account and carry on scamming with none of their details showing up anywhere.
4. Remove the video if it is uploaded to a sharing website. This is very easy to do. Most scammers use YouTube to upload them, but the steps will be similar no matter where it ends up. The video needs to be flagged as inappropriate. To do this, click on the flag icon below and to the right of the video. After that, select “Sexual content” and “graphic sexual activity” or “nudity” as the reason. Once the video has been reported, it's usually deleted in the space of a few minutes. We find that once the video is gone, it doesn't reappear. The scammers cannot risk keeping evidence of their scam, so once the video has been deleted, no more instances of it turn up.
5. To ensure you can act fast if the video does reappear, do a Google search of your name. Scammers will use “Joe Smith m***urbating”, “Michael Davies scandal” or some similar phrase in their video title, so the search needs to be for your full name. You do this by putting it into “speech marks”. Searching for Adam Foster will give you every Adam and every Foster, but searching for “Adam Foster” will only give you the hits on your full name. If you find your video elsewhere, report it and it will be removed
6. Set up a Google alert by going to http://www.google.com/alerts
. Use your name as the search query and video as the result type. Let it tell you “as-it-happens” and select “all results”. Enter your email address and then click the “create alert” button. Now, if any videos with your name appear, Google will email you to tell you about it. As we said before, it's highly unlikely it will appear, but it's better to be safe than sorry. If you don't get any emails, then that's good news. It means nothing has been posted.
7. Now you need to block the scammer. If you have them on your Skype list, right click their name in your contacts list and click on “Block this person”. If they're on your face book list, then you need to delete and block them there too. Click on your name at the top of the page, then on “Friends” to see your friends list. Hover over the button with a tick and the word “Friends” in it and some new options will pop up. Click on “Report/Block”, then choose the option to block them. If you contacted them elsewhere, block them there too and deactivate your profile so the scammer can no longer see you.
8. We recommend at this point that you deactivate your account for two weeks. This will make the scammer think you've panicked and deleted your account. To do this, click on the account menu at the top, right hand of the screen. It's an icon that looks like a cog. Select “Account Settings”, then on “Security”. Now you need to click on “Deactivate your account”. This doesn't delete your account, it merely makes it appear deleted. Make up an excuse to tell you friends why you’re offline – you’re applying for jobs and don’t want your profile found by a new employer, that sort of thing.
9. Once the two weeks are up, then you can reactivate it and nothing will be lost. Be absolutely sure your scammer is not in your friends list. After this, we recommend you change your username and profile photo as this prevents the scammer from finding you again. The username change will change the URL of your page. Do not add anyone you don't already know to your friends list, and change your security setting so non friends cannot see your profile. These are extra steps we advise to keep you safe.
10. Did the scammer get your phone number or email address? Be sure to block them there too. Don't answer the phone to anyone whose number you don't recognise and be very wary of opening any emails. To be extra secure, you could make a new email address, send it to those you want to keep in contact with and abandon the old one. If you didn't, ask yourself how easy it would be to work out your address from the details on your profile page. Odds are, they won't do that much work, but it's worth thinking about.
These scammers work fast, and could have already tried to scam over a hundred other people in the two weeks your account was deactivated. We've seen instances where a scammer has uploaded a dozen videos in a day. The scammers will not spend a great deal of time looking for you when they could be scamming others that will pay. They are not going to suddenly reappear six months down the line, and after a few weeks the chance of your video suddenly resurfacing are next to zero. If you did pay them once, then they may try a little harder to find you, but will still give up and move on in a very short space of time.
You can find more help and advice, such as how to delete a private YouTube video, on our “Read This First” thread at http://tinyurl.com/a79lmtp