FBI Tech Tuesday: Building a Digital Defense Against Sextortion Scams
Welcome to the Oregon FBI’s Tech Tuesday segment. This week: building a digital defense against sextortion scams.
Last week, we talked about romance scams—how a fraudster convinces you that your long-distance relationship is real. He then manipulates you into sending money.
Sextortion cases involve something much darker. In addition to asking for money, an extortionist will likely demand that you provide sexual favors or that you send him explicit photos or videos of yourself.
So how does it all start? The fraudster may be an old boyfriend, or, more likely, a distant acquaintance or stranger. He possesses something very private—photos or information that would embarrass you if he releases them. If you don't comply with his demands, he says, then your family, friends, and classmates will know your deepest secrets.
How did he get the information to blackmail you? In some cases, he recorded or obtained recordings of sexually explicit content that the victim shared in what was thought to be a private video chat. In other cases, the extortionist compromised your phone or computer with malware. He now has access to anything you have stored. He may also be able to remotely activate your camera to take photos and videos of you anywhere anytime.
If you find yourself caught in this situation, do not give into his demands. He will continue to harass you as long as you continue to follow through... and every compromising photo or video you give him will only add to his collection with which he can blackmail you.
Contact law enforcement and put an end to his unlawful behavior. It you are a minor, talk to a parent, teacher, or counselor right away so they can help you report this criminal.
To avoid falling prey to a sextortionist:
- Never send compromising photos or videos of yourself to anyone, whether you know them or think you know them.
- Do not open attachments from people you don't know. Clicking on an unsolicited attachment or link can download malware onto your device.
- Turn off your electronic devices and physically block web cameras when you are not using them.
If you have been victimized by this crime or any other online crime, make a report to the FBI. You can file an online report at the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov or call your FBI local office.