In this edition of cyberfraud and hacking we are going to cover sextortion, a very coercive and manipulative scam and at times a successful one too. But what is sextortion? How Does it work? What are the end goals and motives for an attacker and what can you do to avoid becoming a victim? In such a predicament, understandably, most individuals start to panic irrespective of who they are or their stature in society.

But let’s cover the basics - what is sextortion and how does it work? Sextortion is a form of extortion using pornographic pictures obtained from the victim either willingly, non-consensually, or even doctored images. The latter of the first two are criminal offences in their own right and are grounds for a jail sentence. Why would someone sextort someone you may ask? Either there is potential financial gain or jealousy may be involved, usually from an ex or current partner who wants to blackmail a current lover. Sexting can also involve blackmailing individuals with screenshots of a raunchy conversation and is just as much a threat to one's reputation, if not more so than actual photographs.  A conversation may be more difficult to disprove and is easier to take out of context thus fulfilling the sextortionist’s own narrative.

Sextortion could also be a means of coercing and blackmailing a person into doing sexual favours for the blackmailer in question. In a situation of employment, it could be offering somebody a job in return for sexual favours. It could also be in the form of blackmailing a person with sensitive leaked material. It could also be used to exploit an LGBT person’s gender identity if he/she wished it to remain secret in exchange for money/a contract/or even sexual favours. Sometimes live webcams have been used in sextortion cases to record webcam sexual activity, followed by a blackmail attempt.

The dangers of sextortion are highly evident in this digital age as many suicides have been linked to affairs and scandals because the victim refused to meet the demands of the perpetrator. Sextortion has spread its tentacles into schools and combined with cyberbullying resulted in numerous tragedies involving young people. Families have been torn apart by divorce and tragedies ranging from individuals being disowned by relatives to suicides. Yet this doesn’t have to be the case - sextortionists only have the amount of power you give them if you are equipped with the crucial knowledge on how to deal with them. 

What victims are often unaware of is their rights in terms of the protection of their personal information and a number of privacy or cybersecurity laws which strictly forbid blackmail/extortion in any form or manner. This is a prosecutable criminal offence whereas the offender in question is liable to possibly being sentenced to prison. This is the first step in awareness of the fact that the authorities are on the victims’ side.  Evidence will need to be obtained through the assistance of cybersecurity experts to authenticate the perpetrator’s identity and location together with screenshots, IP addresses and geolocation maps linking them to the scene of the crime. For further information review our resources section and get in touch with our team of investigators.

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