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ScamSurvivors was formed in 2012 by a small group of volunteers looking to fight online scams. Between us, we have around 40 years' experience in dealing with both scammers and those who have been scammed.
A few weeks after its creation, we received our first report regarding sextortion/webcam blackmail.
Over the next 12 months, we received an average of two reports a week.
Today, our numbers can reach 10x that amount daily.
To date, we have received over 25,000 reports from around the globe. Around 45% of our reports come from America, followed by the UK with 10%.
What is sextortion? What is webcam blackmail? What's the difference?
The blanket phrase "sextortion" is often used for both sextortion and webcam blackmail. Although there can be an overlap in the methods used, the goal is different in both cases.
For sextortion the end goal is the acquisition of more material such as videos or photographs, whereas money is the driving force behind webcam blackmail.
For this presentation we'll be dealing with webcam blackmail.
These scams typically come from Ivory Coast/Mali, Morocco and the Philippines.
The Sun newspaper published an article that referenced data from our forms for the month of July 2018.
It showed that 41% of the scammers reported came from the Philippines, 37% from Ivory Coast and just 1% from Morocco.
This shows a major shift from just a few years ago, when Ivory Coast was named in less than 10% of the cases and Morocco in over 40%.Another big increase is in the number of times Facebook was named as the place the scammer first made contact with the victim, which has risen to over 50%. Originally, most of the scams took place over Skype.Our Twitter feed is updated on a weekly basis with the latest stats for the past 7 days.We looked at the ages of the people from the data source referenced by the Sun in their article. 50% of the forms received were from people born on or after 1990, 29% in the 1980s, 15% in the 1970s and 6% in the 1960s.
Money demands can range from $50 to tens of thousands of dollars.
The amount is often negotiated down to a smaller figure.
The largest demand we have seen was for €550,000. They didn't pay.
Paying the scammer is likely to result in more money demands, so is not recommended.
In one case we received, a $10,000 demand turned into $10,000 a month with the victim paying for 10 months before finding us and stopping.
Tragically, people have taken their own lives after being caught up in this scam.
HOW THE SCAM WORKS.
The scammer will create an online account to lure in victims. Our records show that they initiate contact 85% of the time.They use stolen images on the profile, and software to appear to be a female on webcam. The footage used will feature the female undressing and pleasuring herself. The victim is persuaded to do the same.Screen capturing software records the act, which is then played back and used to threaten the victim, along with a copy and pasted list of friends and family from their account. The scammer will threaten to send the footage to everyone on that list unless payment is made.The scam itself is not difficult to pull off technically. Next is a video to demonstrate just how simple it is. We have deliberately hidden the names of the software used, but it's worth noting that everything is freeware and guides for their usage are easily found online.As the video shows, the females that appear have nothing to do with the scam, but have had their footage abused without their knowledge/permission. We consider them victims of the scam. In this case we were able to identify the person as Lilly Luck.When possible, we try to make the person aware of the situation once we identify them from the stolen images used. In rare cases, images/videos used are of minors. This was the case with Holly Lemyre whose videos were at one point one of the most frequently used. It's important to note that the scammer will in most cases claim to be of age in their profiles. We refuse to help those who were told beforehand by the scammer that they were a minor.Up to this point, the methods used will be very similar no matter where the scammer is from. Their location may be determined by looking at the differences from here on. For example, West African scammers will typically demand larger amounts of money than their counterparts elsewhere.They're also far more likely to threaten to say that the person exposed themselves in front of a minor, or that they'll report them to the media. Some go as far as to send mockups of newspaper articles or contact them from other accounts claiming to be law enforcement/the "YouTube police" with threats of arrest unless the money is paid. The reason we look for the scammer's date of birth on their profiles is to disprove the claim the person was a minor.West African scammers sometimes reference the made up "Article 25 of the law 765465 from October 7th", which they claim will cause the victim to be "arrested and jailed for 5 years with a penalty of $75,000".Scammers from the Philippines are more likely to use words like "shame" or "scandal" when threatening the victim, with West Africans using phrases such as "I'll make you famous" or "I'll ruin your life".It's also worth pointing out that the scammer's location can sometimes be determined by looking at their social media (Facebook in particular) profile. West African scammers tend to use less photos (typically two, with one being a portrait and one being a group photo) and a mixture of French/English.Their pictures tend to be stolen from "regular" profiles, whereas scammers from the Philippines are more likely to use Filipino actresses/models/singers and add a lot more images to the profile.Below is part of an interview with "Will", a sextortion survivor who shared his story with us. Click the play button to hear how the scammer threatened him.
The full interview will be available at the end of this presentation.Next are some screen grabs showing the kind of threats made by the scammers.
Scammers have been known to lie about their motives, claiming a sick relative or that the money is going to an NGO to help starving children.
They may even send the victim photos to substantiate their claims.
A simple image search will usually show these to be stolen.
In this next part, "Will" talks about how he felt after being scammed. What he describes is typical from the cases we've dealt with.
As with any scam, variations appear over time. HERE the scammers removed the webcam element completely. The only thing needed was for the victim to exchange photographs, at which point they receive a threatening email from the "father" claiming his daughter is a minor and demanding money to halt a police investigation or to pay for a phone/tablet that was broken in an argument over the issue.
HERE the scammers sent out emails claiming to have placed a virus on the person's computer which took over their webcam and recorded them watching pornography.
Later versions added the person's password (taken from a website hack) or part of their phone number at the start of the email.
WHAT TO DO?
The steps needed are already covered at BLACKMAILSCAMS.COM and are constantly being updated to mirror any advances in the methods used by the scammers or to incorporate any suggestions made by victims.The advice there mainly involves disappearing from social media for a set amount of time, depending on where the scammer is located and if money was sent.
We find that these steps work in almost all cases.Due to the nature of the scam (we witnessed one YouTube channel that had uploaded over 40 videos in less than 24 hours) the scammers don't waste time hunting people who vanish, but turn their attention to others who may still pay, or to new victims.We post the information on the scammers received from our forms to our forum. This allows people to report the scammer anonymously, getting the details out into the public domain and hopefully preventing others from falling for the same scam.Finally, what advice did "Will" give to others going through the same scam.