Police in Dundee say the number of so-called sextortion scams targeting locals are increasing in the city, with some blackmailed after being convinced to send explicit photos online.
Officers are warning locals to be on the lookout for potential sextortion scams, which they say “more and more social media users are falling victim to”.
They say scammers will befriend someone online before enticing them to send nude or explicit photos or videos.
The victim will then be blackmailed into sending money or gift cards to prevent the pictures and videos from being distributed to people they know.
How sextortion scams work
Detective Sergeant Mark Wilson from Dundee CID said that the force was seeing regular reports of this kind of online crime.
The Police Scotland officer explained: “The perpetrator’s aim is to build trust and persuade the victim they are genuinely interested in becoming involved in an online sexual interaction with them.
“This interaction will often take place via video chat platforms such as Facebook and Google Hangouts and will be initiated by the perpetrator.
“Once the video call is initiated the victim is often connected with the perpetrator who themselves are in a state of undress and claims their microphone does not work, and can only chat via the text function.”
DS Wilson said the scammer would then persuade the victim to expose themselves, which they would then record unknowingly to the victim.
Demand for money
“This is then followed up by a demand for money from the victim or the recordings will be shared to their friends and family whose details have been obtained from their social media friends list,” he added.
The detective urged people who receive unsolicited friend requests on social media as well as those who use online chat platforms to “seriously consider” who they are really speaking with.
“If you find yourself being blackmailed or extorted in this way, contact us on 101 or 999 in an emergency.
“You will be provided with support and your complaint will be taken in absolute confidence,” he added.
What is sextortion?
Experts at the UK’s National Cybersecurity Centre say that sometimes criminals will target people they don’t even have comprising material on.
“A sextortion scam is when a criminal attempts to blackmail someone, usually by email.
“The criminal will claim they have login details or a video of the victim visiting an adult website, and will threaten to disclose this unless the victim pays a
ransom (often in BitCoin).
The criminals behind these attacks do not know if you have a webcam, or know if you’ve visited adult websites.
“The criminals behind these attacks do not know if you have a webcam, or know if you’ve visited adult websites.
“They are attempting to scare their victims into paying a ransom, and will send millions of emails in the hope that someone will pay.”
What to do if you are scammed
The NCSC said they will often use technical language to sound convincing or use a password the victim uses.
Official advice says the best thing people can do to avoid being scammed is not communicate with the criminal.
Reports of suspicious emails can also be referred to their specialist teams by emailing email@example.com.
If you are blackmailed they also advise you do not pay the ransom, as this could lead to you being targetted again because the criminal will know their threats worked.