West Australians warned about ‘sextortion’ as scammers use social media, dating sites

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A mock copulating couple is displayed at the exhibition "Sex and Evolution" at the Natural History museum in the western city of Muenster October 17, 2013. Reuters/Ina Fassbender

West Australians are being warned against “sextortion” scams after WA ScamNet received reports from eight people since December 2017 blackmailed in such a way. The scammers were said to have contacted their victims through social media and dating websites.

According to these reports, scammers attempt to be friends with potential victims, swaying them to record and send sexually explicit photos and videos. They will then threaten their victims to pay a certain amount via Western Union so they will not post the materials to the internet or send them to their partners, employers, family members and friends.

Amid cases recorded by the WA ScamNet, no money was reported to have been handed over. Scammers typically demand those who fall into their trap between $500 and $5,000.

Perth Now reports one case in which a 36-year-old man reportedly approving a friend request on Facebook from someone he thought he knew. They had a brief conversation before he sent footage of himself in a “compromising” position.

The man did not pay the $5,000 that the scammers told him to send. As a result, his video was sent to his girlfriend.

David Hillyard, Commissioner for Consumer Protection, said that those who were targeted can experience immense emotional trauma. A Scottish teenager, for instance, committed suicide in 2015 after scammers threatened to share intimate webcam clips of himself.

“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,” Hillyard said. His advice for people being blackmailed is to avoid sending money since the demands will only escalate if they do so.

WA ScamNet agreed, saying scammers will only return to ask for more money. If the photos or videos were uploaded on Facebook, YouTube or other sites, the first thing that must be done is to report them to the administrators by flagging them as inappropriate so they will be taken down quickly.

Another advice from WA ScamNet is to list down Skype names and Facebook profiles. Such information will be needed in filing a formal report. Block the scammer on social media as well. The same thing must be done if they have email addresses or mobile phone numbers. Scammers may think a social media account has been deleted by deactivating accounts for two weeks. Additional information and advice on scams such as sextortion are available on the WA ScamNet website or by contacting 1300 30 40 54.