‘Sextortion’ gangs on prowl on social media

| | BHUBANESWAR
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‘Sextortion’ gangs on prowl on social media

Thursday, 09 September 2021 | SAROJ MISHRA | BHUBANESWAR

Beware while replying to unknown video calls as ‘sextortion’ gangs are on the prowl to trap unsuspecting victims! The Crime Branch of Odisha Police in a re-tweet of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs’ (MHA) Cyber Dost handle has warned people to be careful about video calls from unknown numbers. 

The warning was issued by the Crime Branch as the number of sextortion (extortion cases using nude pictures) are increasing in the State. There have been a number of incidents and the victims’ list is increasing. The cases of cheating people into indulging in virtual sex and recording them to extort money from them have seen a spike during the second year of Covid-19 restrictions.

But due to shame or social stigma, the victims often do not report the crimes to police, said sources.The modus operandi of the gangs is to create fake accounts posing as girls on social media platforms and lure men, most of whom were rich with high-profile backgrounds.While posing as girls on social media, the accused took the victims into confidence and insist on starting obscene video chats, which they would then record. Then they blackmail the victims with the recorded videos and extort money from them.   Besides, in a lot of cases, people come in contact with unknown persons through dating apps or even matrimonial websites or apps. The profiles that they connect with are mostly fake.

The person behind the profile is actually a criminal whose main motive is to extort money from the victim. These fake profiles are deliberately made to look very attractive so that people fall prey to this scam easily.

The persons, who operate these fake profiles first talk to the victims normally for a few days and then induces them to share their intimate or nude pictures and videos with them.

Once the criminal has access to these private pictures and/or videos, he starts extorting the sender for money, sometimes up to several lakhs claiming that in case the victim does not pay up, he will upload their pictures or videos on the internet or share those with his or her relatives, family and friends. In a new variant of this modus operandi, a lot of people (mostly men) are being contacted on Instagram recently by women with attractive profiles, who immediately ask them for a sex chat or a nude video call. When the person agrees to it, they record the entire episode and start blackmailing, extorting the victim for money threatening to share the video with his relatives and friends, said sources.

The MHAs Cyber Dost warns people to b careful while choosing friends on social media and said, “Cyber criminals often create fake social media profiles to befriend potential victims for obtaining their confidential or personal data which can be misused later on. Be careful of online friend requests you accept.”

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