Scammers have caught eight people in WA as part of a so-called 'sextortion' ploy.
The victims were all blackmailed with personal videos they were tricked into sending people they met on social media and dating sites.
Basically, the scam artists demand between $500 and $5,000 while threatening to post the videos and photographs on the internet as well as send them to family, friends, partners and employers.
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 $5,000 the scammers had demanded, the video was sent to the man’s girlfriend, who was easily identifiable from his Facebook page.
Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard said that, even if those targeted don’t pay, they can experience immense emotional trauma.
“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."
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