Richieson Gyeni-Boateng’s thoughts: Sextortion! …Webcam blackmail in COVID-19 times

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In this COVID-19 time, everything is going digital and online businesses are thriving very well. Most business owners who traditionally would not do their business online are now online attracting their customers and/or using digital platforms to receive payment. One of such business is the oldest profession in the world, prostitution – which is illegal in most countries in the world.

Now these prostitutes and their pimps have gone hi-tech in their trade by advertising their services on dating and social media sites – demonstrating those services in front of their webcam to entice their target to participate in the act so as to get satisfaction. The question is, who is behind and controlling these acts? This article is aimed at throwing more light on how sextortion works, and how to win the fight against these criminals when you find yourself a victim.

Sextortion is a type of revenge porn that employs non-physical forms of coercion to extort sexual favours from the victim. Simply put, sextortion is blackmail. It’s when someone threatens to send a sexual image or video of you to other people if you don’t pay them or provide more sexual content.

Research has it that sextortion surged in some parts of the world when government imposed lockdown restrictions on its citizenry – with countries like the UK, USA recording their highest numbers ever. This is because people resorted to the Internet to kill their boredom. Criminals also took advantage of the situation to blackmail people, using fake social media accounts and/or forcing people to seduce their victims. Sextortion is thought to be rising in popularity among criminals due to the attractive nature of the crime.

Another form of sextortion is when the criminal threatens the victim to submit more explicit pictures, videos and/or vital information, otherwise he or she will release private and sensitive information, pictures and/or videos of the victim to his/her friends and family. Criminals are using sextortion to even sway corporate employees into handing over employee credentials and other information because of the ease with which these people (victims) fall prey to sextortion.

One way in which sextortion happens is when the criminal via an accomplice befriends their victims online (social media platforms, dating site, adult website) using a fake identity and persuades their victims to perform sexual acts in front of their webcam. These webcam interactions are recorded by the criminals with an intention to extort money from their victims by threatening them with showing the images and/or videos to the public (including family and friends). These things are mostly done using attractive young ladies and gentlemen who are coerced into these actions using financial incentives and/or threats.

Some of the criminals even advertise their numbers on these sites for people to contact them (via platforms/channels they have control over) for online adult services. The criminal commonly uses a pre-recorded bait video to entice the victim to make an advance payment for more exciting services – and vanishes into thin air when the money is received. Since the source of funds cannot be explained, the criminal will find and use avenues to clean such monies.

In an effort to stop yourself from becoming a victim of sextortion, one needs to be very careful about who you befriend or even consider sharing anything intimate with. When you find yourself in this situation, try to follow these simple rules or guidelines:

  • Never panic if someone threatens to share your nude pictures and/or videos if you fail to pay him or her the money being requested. Report the issue to the police immediately.
  • Try as much as possible not to communicate further with the criminal. Gather all the evidence you can lay your hands on by taking screen shots of the earlier communications. Suspend your social media accounts (don’t delete the accounts). If possible, use the online reporting process available on the social media site to report the issue for them to have the video and/or picture blocked, and set up an alert in case the video and/or picture resurfaces.
  • Blackmailers will always come back for more money once you pay the initial payment. So, try as much as possible not to pay any money being requested by the criminal. At times, even when the demands have been met, the criminals still go on to post or share the videos and/or pictures.

We are all fallible. We are all susceptible and potentially vulnerable to something like sextortion, and many people use webcams for flirting and cybersex – but sometimes people you meet online aren’t who they say they are, so we should be smart and alert. Would you mind doing me a favour? Share this article with someone so that the awareness of sextortion is spread to prevent people from becoming victims.

>>>If you require further information on this article, please contact Richieson @[email protected]

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