“I’d never even sent a nude picture, and now I’m being blackmailed for a video showing my privates,” says Patrick, a 25-year-old young man who, out of embarrassment, asked us not to use his real name.
Just days ago, Patrick became the victim of a “sextortion” scam. This typically targets online daters, using pretty women as bait to extort unsuspecting young men.
The beautiful girls lure the men into private video calls and encourage them to get naked. Then, they secretly record the victim’s sex video. They threaten to send it to all of his Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram contacts unless he coughs up some cash.
“One minute you see a good looking blonde, and the next you’ll see yourself with your pants around your ankles,” says Wayne May, the founder of Scam Survivors, a resource that counsels victims and educates the public about online scams. Webcam blackmail is not a new scam, May tells us, but it is duping new men every day.
Patrick, for example, knew about these types of scams before he ever became a victim. “But it wasn’t on my mind, ‘cause I never thought it would happen to me,” he says. “Plus, she was one of the most attractive people I’d ever met. She looked like a model. So, I was kind of thinking with my dick.”
Patrick met “Riana” on OKCupid. She seemed “fresh-off-the-boat,” as he describes it, an Asian girl with broken English. She was eager to get to know him — after they’d exchanged a few messages, she wanted to add him as a friend on all his social media accounts. She was insistent that they video chat.
He’d been online dating for a while, so this wasn’t the first time he’d Skyped with a near stranger. “I’m used to doing video chat to filter out the real people from fake people,” Patrick says.
“Usually, we’ll just talk. Show our little hobbies, our collection of video games, our computer set-up, or our art projects. Just to get to know the person better,” he explains. Patrick expected the same of Riana. But this time was different.
The Skype chat begins, and Riana can’t turn her microphone on, but she can still type and send messages. It’s clear she’s listening to music, because she’s dancing seductively, and moving her lips, presumably singing along with the song.
“I knew it wasn’t a recording, because she’s being really responsive. Every time she sends me another message, she stops dancing and starts typing on the keyboard. I knew I was talking to a real girl in real time,” Patrick says.
However, the software these scammers use is intelligent, May explains. They start with pre-recorded video, and then are able to click commands that make the girl seem interactive. Like a digital puppet, she can wave, smile, blow a kiss, or perform a number of other tasks that make her seem “live.” This software is free, easy to use, and widely available to any asshole who wants to exploit lonely, vulnerable men.
Patrick didn’t masturbate on camera. However, he did answer Riana’s request to see his cock. “She kept dancing and flashing her breasts, so I was just mirroring her,” Patrick insists. She wanted to see his bare butt, too, but he stopped short of exposing his ass.
“They got a recording of me, maybe 8 seconds long. The girl stopped dancing, and started laughing. Then, they switched over to the recording of my video,” Patrick says.
The scammers were exposed — not as a smokin’ hot, promiscuous Asian woman with perky tits — but more likely as a gang of dirty old men with hairy bellies, rotting teeth, and a smug sense of accomplishment.
The scammers demanded $1,000 to delete Patrick’s video. He didn’t have the money to pay them off, but he couldn’t seem to shake them, either.
“They’re contacting me from multiple different places. I block them on Skype, they start texting me. I block their phone number on my phone, they start Facebook messaging me,” he says.
The very first rule of dealing with sextortion scammers, May says, is do not pay them. If they know you’re good for the money, they’ll only demand more. The second rule is, hurry up and get the hell off the grid. Deactivate your social media accounts. If the scammers can’t find you, they can’t forward footage of your pixelated genitals to your grandparents, all your classmates and your co-workers.
May also asks victims to fill out a form on Scam Survivors, uploading any photos they were sent and offering any details they were given. This is essentially the only useful way they can report their case, given that reporting it to the police is pretty hopeless. The scammers live worlds away, and many authorities won’t even bother trying to find them unless they’ve stolen over $100,000.
For now, Patrick is laying low, hoping his scammers get distracted by the countless other hopeless romantics — men looking for love, only to get suckered into “sextortion.”
He hasn't sworn off video chatting forever, he says, "I just have to remember to only present the things I'm willing to share with the entire internet."