‘Sextortion’ 101: How to avoid becoming a victim

Bea Cupin
‘Sextortion’ 101: How to avoid becoming a victim
It doesn't matter if you're a tech-savvy millennial or if you can barely navigate the World Wide Web – anyone can fall victim to 'sextortion.' Here's how to avoid and handle being victim.

MANILA, Philippines – It doesn’t matter if you’re a tech-savvy millennial or if you can barely navigate the World Wide Web.

If you’re online and not careful, you could fall victim to an online “sextortion” scheme, where suspects lure men by creating fake accounts on social networking sites like Facebook.

After chatting online, the suspects ask their “clients” to communicate with them via Skype, where they convince men to engage in cybersex. Unknown to them, the entire act is being recorded by the suspects.

The video would later be used to extort between US$500-$2,000 to prevent the release of the video online.

At least one victim committed suicide as a result of the scam, police officials said. It was the death of 17-year-old Daniel Perry that launched the worldwide hunt for the people behind the “sextortion” scheme.

On Friday, May 2, the Philippine National Police (PNP) announced the arrest of at least 58 suspects connected to the scam. Different PNP units, the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commissioner, and members of the International Police Organization (Interpol).

How can you make sure you don’t fall victim to the “sextortion” trap? PNP chief Director General Alan Purisma and Interpol Digital Crime Center Director Sanjay Virmani have tips:

Know who you’re talking to. Don’t be too trusting when meeting people online “People need to be cautious and wary about who they are talking to on the Internet. Anybody can assume the identity of anybody,” says Virmani.

Tell authorities, family, and friends

Ask for help. Think you’re being targeted? Cut all contacts. The Interpol and PNP recommend netizens report suspicious online activities to authorities as soon as possible. “Do not pay the money that is being demanded… you are not the only one to fall for these scams but you can help to stop them by reporting it as quickly as possible and by refusing to pay,” the Interpol says.

Local and international police don’t have a clear picture of how many are victims of the “sextortion” scheme around the world. It’s because people don’t report it to authorities. “What we need to do is bring greater awareness out there: what to do if you’re targeted, how to report to police, how to work with law enforcement,” adds Virmani.

Software updates might be worth the wait, officials say

Keep your system updated. Too lazy to wait for a software update? It could very well save you from trouble. Social networking sites aren’t the only means through which suspects find their targets. The Interpol says sometimes, suspects access porn sites for personal information. “Sometimes you’re seeing malicious software being installed in computers,” notes Virmani.

Better safe than sorry online!

Don’t let your guard down. Purisima and Virmani say there’s no real “demographic” when it comes to the victims of “sextortion.” Both young and old can fall victim. It’s just a matter of who suspects view as the “most vulnerable.” – Rappler.com

Are you a victim of “sextortion” or any other similar cyber crimes? Reach the PNP-Anti-Cybercrime hotline 24/7: 414-1560 or submit a cybercrime report form here

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.