Two cases of sextortion scams were recently reported to the Whitehorse RCMP.
What is sextortion? A form of exploitation that involves the threat of releasing shared intimate videos, images, or explicit messages online.
According to the Canadian Anti-fraud Centre, victims are typically lured into an online relationship through social media or pornographic websites. As the relationship builds, victims are coerced into performing a sexual act on camera. The victim is later advised that the event was recorded and to pay a fee or the video or photo will be released publicly.
The reported incidents and social media platforms used may differ, but the results are usually the same – payments were requested to avoid having nude or compromising photos or video of sexual acts being released publicly.
Scammers have also been known to alter videos and photos before sending them to their targets. The requested ransom is often $500 or more, but can begin with smaller amounts, such as $20 or $30, and grow from there.
In one Whitehorse case, the scammer used real images of the victim's face, and combined them with explicit footage showing someone else's body. The scammer then coerced the victim into paying over $200 in fees to prevent the footage from being released publicly.
If you have been a victim of this type of scam, report it to your local police and the Canadian Anti-fraud Centre. If you are approached by a scammer, immediately stop all forms of communication and do not comply with the threats.
How to protect yourself from sextortion
- Don't accept 'friend' requests from strangers;
- Do not engage in online chats with people you don't know;
- Carefully consider who you are sharing explicit videos and photographs with;
- Deny any requests to perform an illicit act over the internet;
- If you get such requests, stop all forms of communication with the individual;
- Don't comply with any threats;
- Disable your webcam or any other camera connected to the internet when you are not using it. Hackers are able to obtain remote access and record;
- Consider using public profile photos that do not fully identify you;
- Take further steps to improve the security of your social media profiles. Keep your friends list private and ensure your profile and photo albums are not open to the public.