LANCASTER, N.Y. (WIVB) – Lancaster Police are warning of a new scam which involved a scammer contacting a victim through Facebook pretending to be somebody the victim knew.
The scammer began sending photos and videos, requesting the victim send photos and videos of himself as well. Later, the scammer told the victim to send money, threatening that otherwise the photos and videos of the victim would be posted on the Internet and sent to his friends and family.
“It is very common for fraudsters to pretend to be a love interest online and to supply revealing photos that are either models or porn-stars, stolen images from social media accounts or websites, or even potentially pictures belonging to a fellow scam victim,” Lancaster Police warned in a Facebook post. “They then ask for similar photos in return.”
Once the scammers have personal, sensitive photos or videos, they demand money in exchange for not releasing the material on the internet, the statement from police added. Threats can include that the material will be sent to all your Facebook friends or posted on YouTube.
“With videos they may use Skype featuring a model and software that automates the responses to appear as though it is a human communicating with you real-time,” Lancaster Police said. “The aim is to get the victim to take their clothes off or do sexual things in front of the camera, which will be recorded by the scammers. There have also been cases where the scammers have hacked into a computer and turned on the webcam to record the victim unknowingly e.g. when they are getting undressed in their room.”
Police advise not sending intimate photos or videos to anyone you meet online, even if they aren’t scammers.
If you’re being blackmailed by online scammers, police have the following tips:
- DO NOT PAY. Those who have paid, report that the scammers came back the next day with demands for even more money.
- Make a note of the scammer’s details so they can be reported in order to help protect others. Skype name, Facebook URL, any photos that were sent and the details you have been given to send the money to will be useful.
- Report their profiles to the sites you met them on or that they are using to contact you.
- Block the scammer. If you have them on your Skype list, right click their name in your contacts list and click on “block this person”. If they’re on your Facebook friends list, then you need to delete and block them there too. Click on your name at the top of the page, then on “Friends” to see your friends list. Hover over the button with a tick and the word “Friends” in it and some new options will pop up. Click on “Report/Block”, then choose the option to block them.
- Police recommend at this point that you deactivate your account for two weeks. This will make the scammer think you’ve panicked and deleted your account. To do this, click on the account menu at the top, right hand of the screen. It’s an icon that looks like a cog. Select “Account Settings”, then on “Security”. Now you need to click on “Deactivate your account”. This doesn’t delete your account; it merely makes it appear deleted. Make up an excuse to tell your friends why you’re offline – you’re applying for jobs and don’t want your profile found by a new employer, that sort of thing.
- Once the two weeks are up, then you can reactivate it and nothing will be lost. Be absolutely sure your scammer is not in your friends list. After this, we recommend you change your username and profile photo as this prevents the scammer from finding you again. The username change will change the URL of your page. Do not add anyone you don’t already know to your friends list, and change your security setting so non friends cannot see your profile. These are extra steps we advise to keep you safe.
- If the scammer got your phone number or email address, be sure to block them there too. Don’t answer the phone to anyone whose number you don’t recognize and be very wary of opening any emails. To be extra secure, you could make a new email address, send it to those you want to keep in contact with and abandon the old one. If you didn’t provide your phone number or email address, ask yourself how easy it would be to work out your contract details from your profile page or any information about you that is online. Odds are, they won’t do that much work, but it’s worth thinking about.