West Australians targeted in ‘sextortion’ scams

Stock image.
Stock image.

SCAMMERS are targeting Western Australians on social media and dating websites, attempting to extort money from them after extracting sexually explicit videos and photographs from them.

The scammers threaten to post the videos and photographs on the internet and also send them to family, friends, partners and employers.

They demand their victims pay between $500 and $5,000 via Western Union.

Since December 2017, WA ScamNet at Consumer Protection has received reports from eight people being blackmailed in this way, but no-one has reported sending any money.

In one case, a 36-year-old man reported that he accepted a friend request on Facebook from a woman he thought he knew and, after a brief conversation, he sent a video of himself in a “compromising” position.

When he refused to pay the $5000 that the scammers had demanded, the video was sent to the man’s girlfriend, who was easily identifiable from his Facebook page.

In another case, a 21-year-old man sent a video via Facebook Messenger to a woman he had just met online and was then confronted with a demand for $1000 in order to prevent the video from being sent to his family and ex-girlfriend.

The scammers sent a message to his mother and uncle demonstrating that they were serious about their threat.

He subsequently refused to pay after getting advice from WA ScamNet.

In other ‘sextortion’ cases, the targets were enticed into having cyber-sex via Skype which was recorded and extortion attempts were then received.

Models are often used in these scams and they usually initiate the sexual behaviour and offer to ‘swap’ videos and photos.

Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard said that the scam can cause a significant emotional impact to victims.

“It’s a very personal and highly embarrassing situation to be in and victims are made to believe their lives could be ruined if the intimate videos and photos are made public,” Mr Hillyard said.

“The emotional impact on people targeted by these extortion attempts can be significant. In 2015, a teenager in Scotland took his own life after online scammers threatened to share intimate webcam vision of him.

“It’s important that people who are being blackmailed don’t send any money as the demands will only escalate. Get confidential advice from WA ScamNet officers who can outline practical steps to take to help the situation.”

WA ScamNet has issued the following advice for people who might be targeted:

· Do not send any money. If you do, the scammers will come back for more.

· Contact WA ScamNet at Consumer Protection on 1300 30 40 54 to seek help.

· If the video or photographs are uploaded/posted on sites such as Facebook or YouTube, report them immediately to the administrators by flagging them as inappropriate. They should be taken down quickly.

· Take note of Skype names or Facebook profiles as these will also need to be reported.

· Block the scammer and delete them from your friends’ list on social media. Do the same if they have your email address or mobile phone number.

· Deactivate social media accounts for two weeks so the scammers will think you have deleted your accounts.

· If you meet someone online, avoid letting them have intimate photos or videos. Even if they are not a scammer, there are still risks.

Information and advice on scams is available on the WA ScamNet website www.scamnet.wa.gov.au.

Enquiries can be made to Consumer Protection by email consumer@dmirs.wa.gov.au or by calling 1300 30 40 54.