By Timothy Hardiman
The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) is announcing a scam that extorts money from people who visit online dating sites. The targets of this scam are people who frequent online dating sites, but may be in a relationship with someone and do not want their online activity publicized.
The extortionist meets the victim online and encourages the victim to engage in risqué conversations or to exchange provocative photos. Victims are later provided a link to a website where the victim’s photos are posted and they are labeled a “cheater.” The victim is then asked for money to remove the post.
A couple was arrested in Ohio in 2010 for a variation of this scheme. They met the victim online, engaged in a series of increasingly explicit text messages and finally asked the victim to text explicit photos of himself, according to this CBS news piece. Once they received the photos, they contacted the victim while impersonating a law enforcement officer and told the victim he had texted the photos to an 11-year-old girl and was going to be arrested if he didn’t pay them. The people involved in this crime were arrested by the FBI after allegedly extorting over $10,000 from people around the country.
The common thread in these cases is that the victims are doing things online that they wouldn’t want others to know about. The perceived anonymity of the Internet is just that – a perception. Do not put false hope in your computer to protect you from the ramifications of your actions.
Before you hit the enter key on your computer or the send button on your phone, ask yourself:
- What would happen if others saw what you were sending?
- How much would you be willing to pay to get it back if you became a victim of one of these extortionists?
Then save yourself the money and heartache and delete the message.