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FBI warns about 'sextortion' scams

Increasing complaints from people coaxed into compromising positions who are then threatened leads to warning.

By Mitch Lipka May 3, 2013 4:28PM
On the heels of a couple of so-called sextortion cases, the FBI is warning internet users about the ruse.

The FBI, through its Internet Crime Complaint Center, reports fielding a lot of complaints about the scam, which can be both embarrassing and costly to victims.

Here's how it works, according to the FBI: The criminal meets the victim through social media or on a dating site. After the two spend some time getting acquainted and develop a connection, the perpetrator elevates the online relationship.

The victim is asked to participate in a video chat, during which "they are enticed to expose themselves in sexually compromising situations," the FBI said. Meanwhile, the video chat is being recorded by the scammer.

With the recording in hand, the scammer then demands money with the threat that if the victim doesn't pay up they will share the video with the victim's friends on various social networks. The FBI says requests are made for payments of $50-$300 to be sent via wire transfer to various areas around the world.

Scammers typically ask for money through wire transfer services such as Western Union and MoneyGram because they are essentially cash transactions. Victims have virtually no way to recover their money since not only is cash being sent, but the money is being collected overseas.

In addition to duping people into participating in sextortion scams, teens have also been lured into such schemes by predators while others have had their computers hacked and private images or videos stolen.

Here are some tips from the FBI about how to avoid becoming a victim after a man was sentenced following his conviction for running a "massive online sextortion scheme" involving hundreds of girls:

  • Don’t take for granted that your computer’s anti-virus software is a guarantee against intrusions.
  • Turn off your computer when you aren’t using it.
  • Cover your webcam when not in use.
  • Don’t open attachments without independently verifying that they were sent from someone you know.
  • It’s okay to be suspicious. If you receive a message with an attachment from your mother at 3 a.m., maybe the message is not really from your mother.
  • If your computer has been compromised and you are receiving extortion threats, don’t be afraid to talk to your parents or to call law enforcement.

More from MSN Money:

May 5, 2013 5:44PM
How 'bout just keeping your clothes on? Problem fixed.
May 5, 2013 5:17PM

It would be helpful if the internet would identify the location of the IP address used by individuals who meet online in these sites, for example when two people meet in the chatroom it would be displayed as follows;


MissIamcute, location U.S.


MrIamascumbag, location Eastern Europe


This would at least alert the unsuspecting MIss that the Mr was not currently in the same country as she is.

May 6, 2013 12:44PM
"Scam" should not be confused with abject "stupidity"!  I don't ever use social media sites like FB or whatever, but if I did, and someone asked for an explicit picture, I'd give them one....of my dog's butt!
May 6, 2013 10:16AM
a huge amount of all scams get cashed out using moneygram abd western union.
demanding reliable identification  and some simple safeguards against fraud in place and many of these scams disappear. they are also used in many drug transactions. it just seems too easy.

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