I have been warning you about sextortion scams for seven years. Last January, the FBI issued a new warning about sextortion https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdin/pr/fbi-and-partners-issue-national-public-safety-alert-sextortion-schemes and more recently, the South Carolina Legislature passed a bill called Gavin’s Law that is expected to be signed into law soon by Governor Henry McMaster. This law would further criminalize extorting minors or at-risk adults. It was named after the son of a South Carolina legislator whose teenage son committed suicide after being a victim of sextortion. Criminal actions have been brought against sextortion scammers including against Buster Hernandez who was sentenced to 75 years in prison who extorted more than 375 people.
Some sextortion scams begin with an email in which you are told that your computer and web cam have been hacked and that the scammers have video of you watching porn online. In the email, the scammer threatens to send the videos to people on his contact list unless you pay a ransom in Bitcoin or some other cryptocurrency.
More recently, as the FBI warns, adult predators, often posing as young girls, contact teenage boys on a variety of online platforms such as games or social media and then convincine the teenage boys to engage in explicit sexual activity while unbeknownst to the teenaged boy, the predator is recording it. The scammer then reveals to the teenager that the scammer has the recording and threatens to post it online unless a substantial payment is made. According to the FBI there has been a significant increase in the instances of his scam with law enforcement receiving more than 7,000 sextortion complaints with the true number of instances of this scam thought to be much higher, but unreported. Many of these scams are organized and based outside the United States, primarily in West African countries such as Nigeria and the Ivory Coast.
The FBI advises parents to tell their children to be very careful as to what they share online. Social media accounts which are open to everyone provide predators and scammers with a lot of information that the scammers can use to lure people into scams. Discuss the appropriate privacy settings with your children for all of their accounts.
The FBI also tells parents to remind their children that they can never be sure as to who they are communicating with online and they should be particularly skeptical if they meet someone on a game or app who then asks to communicate with them on a different platform.
In regard to your web cam being hacked, while often this is merely a threat and the scammer has not hacked your web cam, web cams can be hacked. One thing you can do to protect your webcam from being hacked is to make sure that you change the default password on your webcam when you first install it. Another simple thing I do and you can, as well, is to merely put a post-it note over your webcam when it is not in use.
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