The FBI this week warned about recent incidents in Arizona involving an adult coercing teenagers into producing sexual content, as new twists on sextortion scams come to light.
The cases in Arizona involve a predator duping young people into producing sexually explicit videos or images, the FBI said. When a teenager refused requests to make more images, the predator used “threats of harm or exposure of the early images” to force the child to continue producing content, the FBI said.
This is a new twist on sextortion. The conventional sextortion template is to claim your account has been hacked. Then the extortionists typically say they have video proof of you watching sexual content on porn sites and demand immediate payment in Bitcoin – which gives the extortionist anonymity – or they will release the video to the public.
But those tactics may be passé. In a North Carolina case in December, a male teenage college student using a dating app started chatting with someone who sent him a picture of a naked girl, according to a report from WCNC Charlotte North Carolina.
Then the teenager got a phone call from a man claiming to be the girl’s father, “saying the girl was underage and threatened to press charges and sue,” the report said.
(Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images)
The teenager believed the scammer and panicked and got his family involved. The scammer then started making requests for money.
The problem is, it’s often hard to identify the scammers because they call from Voice Over IP phone numbers, police told WCNC.
Yet another new twist is bad guys who create fake accounts on dating websites pretending to be young women looking for new partners.
Once the extortionists get a response, they attempt to extract personal information from the victim including name, mobile phone, location and sexual preferences.
Then personal details, sometimes lurid, are published on the forum along with conversations and pictures. The scammers then demand money to stop the harassment.
The future of sextortion could be deep fakes. “It is quite possible that the next big iteration will come in the form of deepfake technology where a victim’s face (taken from social media photos/video) is superimposed onto real acts taking place. We are not there yet – good deep fakes take a lot of time and effort, but the technology is rapidly evolving,” Fahim Abbasi, senior security researcher at Trustwave, an information security company, told Fox News back in June.
The FBI said there are some easy ways to guard against predators and sextortionists.
Be selective with your social media accounts. “If your social media accounts are open to everyone, a predator may be able to figure out a lot of information about you,” according to the FBI.
And sextortionists are masters of creating fake profiles. “Be aware that people can pretend to be anything or anyone online. Videos and photos are not proof that a person is who they claim to be,” the FBI said.
And be wary if they ask you to start talking to them on a different social media platform, the FBI said.
In an April report, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) said it had seen an increase in reports of online extortion scams as more people stay at home during the COVID-19 crisis and use their personal computers more.