The internet is a place where people can fulfil their sexual desires anonymously, for example by consuming pornography or participating in sex chats. Sometimes, in doing so, people are targeted by criminals who try to blackmail them with their (alleged) actions. The victims fear being exposed to their families, friends, acquaintances and employers.
Blackmail with compromising videos
Men receive invitations or friend requests from very attractive women via social networks (e.g. Facebook or dating platforms). If the invitation is accepted, the “woman” contacts her victim. Shortly afterwards, she will often suggest switching to video chat (e.g. via Skype). There, she will often expose herself quickly, masturbate or pose, encouraging her victim to expose himself, masturbate and pose in suggestive positions as well. The victim is recorded without his knowledge. Blackmailers will then use the recordings to extort money from their victims, threatening to send the recordings to family members, friends or employers or to publish them on Facebook.
Criminals send spam email messages in which they claim to have compromising videos of the recipients consuming porn. Their intention is to lead their victims to believe that they have been caught and to pressure them into handing over money. In this case, the computer of the person concerned is not infected nor does the scammer actually have any compromising material.
Victims are lured to specially crafted websites with pornographic content which infect their computer, tablet or smartphone with malware. The malware activates the webcam and films the unsuspecting victims while they watch porn and perform sexual acts. The victims are then blackmailed with the compromising footage. The blackmailers threaten to publish the material or send it to the stolen friends list.
- Men – Target: young males and adult men.
- Too good to be true – Attractive complete strangers want to chat with you.
- False profile – The online profile does not match that of the person you are seeing or hearing when you speak or chat to them.
- Switch to video – New online acquaintances are keen to switch to video chat (e.g. Skype).
- Naked in no time – The victim’s counterpart gets right down to business and begins to take off their clothes.
- Non-live – What you see are typically imported porn scenes.
- Broken language – Chats are typically in broken German, French or English.
What you need to know
- Even after you have paid, the blackmailing continues.
- The video material is published even if you pay – to blackmail you further.
Tips so you don’t become a victim
- Don’t accept friend requests on social networks if you cannot identify the person beyond any doubt or have not met them in real life.
- You can always be filmed during a video chat, so avoid actions that you might be ashamed of later.
- Always deactivate and tape over your webcam when you’re not talking to someone via video chat.
- Keep your operating system, browser and antivirus software up to date on all your devices to protect yourself from malware.
- Inform the people around you about this blackmail method.
Are you being blackmailed? Stay calm!
- Stay calm – Do not pay!
- Break off contact – Remove the woman and/or blackmailer from your contact list and do not reply to any of their emails, SMS messages etc.
- If the blackmailer has published pictures and video material, contact the platform in question (Youtube, Facebook, Instagram etc.) and request the deletion of the sexual content.
- Set up a Google Alert with your name. That way you will be notified of any new videos or photos uploaded onto the web with your name.
- Back up all the evidence: The pictures and video material with which you are being blackmailed, the contact details of the blackmailers and the woman, all the messages you have received from them (chat histories, emails etc.), details of transactions etc., and report them to your local police.
- Know your rights!Nobody is entitled to upload pictures or videos of others onto the web without their consent. This violates the «right of personal portrayal».
- Seek help – Talk to a trusted person or seek psychological help if you feel that the blackmailing is taking a toll on you.
Just a bluff
- Feeling caught? Relax. There are many scam emails circulating from senders claiming to have videos of their victims consuming porn, pressuring recipients into paying immediately in bitcoins.
- Why my business account? Business accounts are often publicly accessible, and blackmail here is perceived as particularly intimidating.
- Does the blackmailer have my password? What scammers have are generally old passwords which are not necessarily current. Email addresses are obtained from the dark net after being stolen along with your password.
- Has my email account been hacked? No. This is known as “email spoofing”. The email was not sent from your account.
- Does the sender actually have any pictures or videos? No. We are not aware of any such cases to date.
- Have any pictures or videos actually ever been published? No. We are not aware of any such cases.
- Should I pay? No! Do not pay.
- Who can I report the blackmail to? You may report it to your local police or follow the instructions provided here.
- What should I do with the email message: You may move the email message to your spam folder.
- Have you already paid? If you have suffered a financial loss, you must report it to the police.
Is your device infected?
- Immediately change your passwords for all online accounts which you suspect have been infected.
- Disconnect your computer from the network in order to prevent the virus from being reinstalled automatically.
- Back up your computer files. A regular backup is also highly recommended.
- If your PC or Mac has been infected, follow these step-by-step instructions.
- Install up-to-date antivirus software and run a full virus scan.
- Before restoring data from your backup, this, too, should be scanned for viruses.
- Check your infrastructure with our checks.
- If you still feel unsafe, seek advice from a computer expert.
Contacting the police?
Overcome your shame and report sextortion to the police. Blackmail is a criminal offence, which means that law enforcement authorities are obliged to pursue any offence that is brought to their attention.
The chances of bringing the scammers to justice and recovering money already paid are slim. However, reporting the crime allows police to understand the extent of it, establish connections and possibly identify leads for investigation.
Reporting and Analysis Centre for Information Assurance (Melani):
Get Safe Online (Great Britain):
E-Safety Commissioner Australian Government: