The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning members of the LGBTQ+ community about extortion scams turning up on LGBTQ+ dating apps such as Grindr and Feeld. Unlike the typical romance scam about which I have written many times, in these new scams the scammers don’t quickly profess love and then ask for money under a variety of pretenses. Rather in this case the scammer quickly establishes a relationship with his or her victim on one of the LGBTQ+ dating apps and then sends sexually explicit photos with a request for the victim to do the same. However, if the targeted victim does send such photos, the scammer then threatens to share those photos with the targeted victims’ friends, family and employers unless the targeted victim pays a blackmail ransom, generally by gift cards to maintain anonymity.
In 2017 I told you about a similar scam preying on heterosexual soldiers. The Army Criminal Investigation Command has warned military personnel about the dangers of sextortion. Sex extortion or sextortion has been around for years on the Internet with criminals persuading people into performing sexual acts online that are recorded and then used to blackmail the victims. The Army’s Computer Crime Investigative Unit (CCIU) in 2017 began warning soldiers about extortionists who threaten to send the videos to the Soldier’s command, family and friends unless they pay a ransom.
The best solution to any problem is to avoid the problem altogether. If you are going to send sexually explicit photos or indulge in cybersex or phone sex, it should only be done with people whom you totally trust. Engaging in such activities with strangers or people you do not know extremely well is asking for trouble. You can check on the legitimacy of someone’s profile picture to see if it has been associated with another name or with details that don’t match what you have been told by doing a reverse image search using Google or websites such as tineye.com. You also should avoid sharing personal information such as your cell phone number, email address and social media profile with someone you only recently met on a dating app.
For those of you receiving the Scam of the day through an email, I just want to remind you that if you want to see the ever increasing list of Coronavirus scams go to the first page of the http://www.scamicide.com website and click on the tab at the top of the page that indicates “Coronavirus Scams.” Scamicide was recently cited by the New York Times as one of three top sources for information about Coronavirus related scams.
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