Webcam blackmail and sextortion has evolved as a new way to blackmail people online. The impact of sextortion can range from mild embarrassment and a sense of humiliation, to extreme emotional harm. This a serious global issue and blackmailers can be located anywhere around the world. These blackmailers can be individuals working alone, but there are also highly organised criminal groups profiting from sextortion.
How does it work?
In many cases, people are lured into taking part in an online video chat session after making a new friend on a social media website or after receiving a message via a dating app or Skype chat. After chatting for a while, the victim is encouraged to take their clothes off and to engage in sexual activities. Is some cases the person chatting is a real person who is part of the blackmailing, and at other times it’s a pre-recorded video.
At the end of the call or at a later date, they’re told that the session was recorded and the footage will be published online or sent to family members if they don’t pay a ransom. In our experience, the ransom is usually a few hundred dollars.
If the blackmailer has had access to personal details, such as a friend list on social media or a place of work, they may threaten to send the video to these people or publish it somewhere online for friends, family or work colleagues to see.
These videos from the BBC, explain further how sextortion works.
The BBC have reported on the Philippines ‘sextortion’ industry and how the online blackmail of men over web cam has become an industry.
The internet has opened up new ways to communicate with family, friends and other people. Webcams can be a great tool, but as with most things there are some people who use this technology to take advantage of others.
Below are some tips to keep safe when using webcams.
- Be wary of friend requests from people that you don’t know
- Take care when talking with people you don’t know online
- Be aware that your ‘private’ video chats can be recorded and used for blackmail
- Keep your clothes on when video chatting with people you’ve just met
- Be careful with personal information you publish online as it may be used to target your friends, family or employer
- Review your digital footprint and lock down social media privacy settings
If you’re being blackmailed
- Do not respond or pay the ransom
- If you have connected to the blackmailers on social media, unfriend them, block them and deactivate your account
- Block any messages sent over Skype or other chat apps
- Report the accounts being used to the platform that it’s on (e.g. report to Facebook)
- Report at your local police station or report it to Netsafe
- If the content is posted online, report it immediately to the platform that it’s on and to Netsafe
- Seek support from friends, family or our experienced Netsafe team
Paying the initial ransom demand often leads to more threats and requests for more money. We are aware of sextortion videos being published before and after money has been paid. We’ve dealt with many cases of sextortion and understand it can be an overwhelming and difficult situation. You can call the Netsafe helpline for advice and information about sextortion on 0508 NETSAFE (0508 638 723).
If you’re feeling upset by the situation and need to talk to someone, you can contact the following helplines for free:
- Lifeline: 0800 543 354
- Need to talk? Call or text 1737
- Samaritans: 0800 726 666
- Depression helpline: 0800 111 757
- Youthline: 0800 376 633 or text 234
Report a scam
Help if you have been scammed or think you are about to be scammed: Netsafe can’t open investigations or track scammers, but we can offer support and advice for people who have lost money in a scam, or think they are about to. This includes letting you know the steps you can take depending on the scam you’re in and giving you advice about how to stay safe in future. You can report a scam to www.netsafe.org.nz/report.
Our help service is open from 8am – 8pm Monday to Friday and 9am – 5pm on weekends.