Sextortion! - Hackers and former lovers demand big bucks to keep sex tapes, nude pictures secret
Some Jamaicans are being asked to pay as much as $200,000 to ex-lovers and hackers, who are threatening to expose their nude photos and sex tapes to family and friends.
Assistant Commissioner of Police Clifford Chambers said 31 victims of this latest form of extortion have come forward to make reports in the last two years, but he believes many others have paid the money demanded while deciding not to get the police involved.
Both men and women are being extorted, but the men are generally asked to pay in order to keep secret tapes or pictures showing gay relationships.
"We are of the view that this complaint is actually under-reported because a lot of persons are not too comfortable with coming to the police and report these matters because it will require some investigation. So we have always seen where persons pay money, and it's only when they pay the money that is demanded and their request has not been acceded to, then they will come to the police," said Chambers.
"We have persons who do it as a form of blackmail. Boyfriend, girlfriend, man and woman break up and try to get back at the person and then just go a step further. Rather than just putting it out there, they would actually make demands, and once demands are being made, then it move into the realm of extortion," added Chambers.
He noted that victims are sometimes asked for sexual favours.
The assistant commissioner, who heads the Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime Investigation Branch, said that the photos and videos are often accessed by hacking the email accounts of the victims, who are then prevented from getting into their accounts, and as a result, are unable to delete or alter the photos or tapes. They are then asked to pay between $10,000 and $200,000 to regain access.
"In a few of the cases, we have had hackers who literally go around and try to hack people's email if they can, depending on the encryption," said Chambers.
He noted that the police have arrested seven persons in connection with the 16 complaints that have been lodged since the start of this year. While the offence is called sextortion in other jurisdictions, in Jamaica, offenders are charged for obscene publication and extortion as there is currently no legislation to deal specifically with this issue.
"We have made a lot of proposals for changes to the cybercrime legislation to take in stuff like that," he said.
Sextortion occurs when sexual information and images are used to extort money and sexual favours from victims.
The United Kingdom-based National Crime Agency has reported a huge spike in this form of blackmail in that country since the start of this year. The agency said the numbers have almost doubled, as organised criminals have started to use sexy female decoys to entice young men to perform sex scenes which are then video-recorded and used to extort funds.
DRIVEN TO SUICIDE
At least four victims have committed suicide after being threatened with the prospect of their sex videos going viral. Most of the victims were approached through social media.
In order to minimise the risk of becoming a victim of sextortion, Chambers has urged Jamaicans to try not to record pornographic videos or take such photos. In the event that these are taken, efforts should be made to protect the password for the digital device on which they are stored.
He cautioned persons against paying money to the extortionists, as oftentimes, they demand more money.
"Critically, too, is not to share your password with anybody. When you get close to someone, you feel comfortable with the person, and you may think that you could or you should, but certain things are private and certain things should remain private," he said.
"People just have to become a little bit more cyber aware and be mindful that your phone knows more about you than even your friend," the senior cop warned.
Ways to protect yourself from sextortion
- Never send compromising photos to anyone, regardless of who you think they are - even if the image is slightly compromising.
- Do not talk to people online who you do not know. Adding people to your networks who you do not personally know is extremely dangerous and can open doors wide open for sextortion predators.
- Cover your cameras when not in use. Hackers can gain access to virtually anything they set their minds to if it is poorly protected, and that includes your webcam. By placing a webcam cover or even a piece of tape over your webcam, you can prevent hackers from being able to spy on you, even if they can hack into your webcam.
- Make sure your computer's cybersecurity is up to date - at least by updating your anti-virus software regularly and not going to any seedy websites.
- Taking multiple steps in protecting your personal cybersecurity will only help you to be more secure.