Shield against sextortion
Preventing oneself from sextortion should be the priority, but once already trapped, victims must resort to institutional responses rather than conceding to blackmailer’s demands
You were always busy checking your phone for the latest updates on social media. One day, you noticed that you had received a friend request from an unknown person in your city. Knowing the risks of accepting unknown friend requests, you decided to ignore them. The next day, you received the same request again, but this time it showed that you had one mutual friend. Curiosity got the better of you, and you clicked on the profile to see who the mutual friend was. To your surprise, it was one of your closest friends. You quickly accepted the request and thought nothing more of it. The following morning, you received a video clip in your messenger from the new friend's profile. You played the clip, and to your astonishment, it was an abusive recorded video call of your mutual friend. You could see your friend's face, but the other person's face was cleverly hidden. The video was deleted from your messenger within a few minutes by the newly added friend. Feeling worried and concerned for your friend, you immediately called him. He sounded surprised and asked you why you were calling. You were hesitant at first but then explained what had happened. Your friend was shocked and told you that he realized that he had fallen victim to a sextortion scam. The fraudster had created a fake profile and used his name and image to gain your trust. Once they were friends, the fraudster used a recorded video call of your friend to threaten and blackmail you. The fraudster threatens to circulate the abusive video clip to all of his friends if he doesn't pay. To show the seriousness of the threat, the fraudster sent the clip to you as a first step.
Sextortion and blackmail are challenging circumstances that can make things worse for victims. For those affected, the pain of coping with an online sextortion event can be overwhelming. If you receive threats or blackmail on Facebook, know that you're not alone. There may be terrible repercussions if the attacker gets their way, and there is no way to predict how far they'll go until it happens. Sextortionists, also known as blackmailers, are effectively exploiting their tactics to attract more and more victims to the site. It's crucial to report it right away if it has occurred to you. Anybody can become a victim of online sextortion, regardless of age or gender. However, it may be quite challenging to recover back incriminating images or videos after they have been obtained.
Be wary of the people you add as friends: Being picky about who you add as a friend on Facebook is one of the most crucial things you can do. There is no need to add someone as a Facebook friend if you don't know them in real life. Never share any of your personal information, such as your email address, phone number, or address.
Ignore friend requests from untrustworthy accounts: Another thing to be on the lookout for is friend requests from opportunistic individuals. These could be phony accounts created by con artists with the express intent of extorting money from gullible victims.
Use caution while clicking links. Sextortion schemes frequently get victims to click on harmful websites. Your computer may get infected with malware once you open the link, giving the con artist access to your pictures and videos. Be cautious when selecting links to click on, especially those coming from unreliable sources.
Use the privacy settings on Facebook. You may make sure that only those who are your friends can access your photographs, videos, etc. by using Facebook's privacy settings. Since they won't have simple access to your personal information, fraudsters will find it much more difficult to target you as a result.
Report suspicious activity: If you notice any suspicious activity on Facebook, report it immediately to Facebook. This includes any friend requests from unknown individuals or any suspicious messages or posts.
Dealing with online blackmail
If a cyber-blackmailer demands money from you, do not pay them. Blackmail is a serious crime that can lead to imprisonment. If you have already paid the blackmailer and want to get your money back, contact the police immediately. They can help you find the blackmailer and possibly assist you in getting your money back. If someone shares your private photos without consent and blackmails you, contact the cybercrime department to remove the images.
If you find yourself in a sextortion situation on Facebook Messenger, it's important to sever all communication with the blackmailer and avoid giving in to their requests for money, photos, or videos. Do not provide them with any personal information they may be seeking. Instead, report the incident to the police immediately and keep all evidence, such as chat logs, usernames, and messages from the suspects. It's crucial to have concrete evidence to bring the perpetrators to justice. So, be sure to take screenshots or record any video that can help authorities identify and locate them.
Click on the attacker's profile link in your news feed to access it. Choose ‘find support’ or ‘report profile’ by clicking on the ‘three dots’ to the right of the top navigation. Follow the instructions provided on how to file a report or provide feedback. By reporting the blackmail on Facebook or Instagram, you can protect yourself from being hacked. Reporting prevents notifying the person causing harm, halting further actions.
To sum up, being a victim of blackmail on Facebook can be distressing, but there are steps you can take to protect yourself and seek justice. By following the advice outlined in this article, such as not giving in to the blackmailer's demands, gathering evidence, and reporting the incident to the relevant authorities, you can regain control of the situation and safeguard your online security. Always put your safety first and ask for assistance if you need to.
The writer is an HoD and Assistant Professor of Dept of Computer Sc & Electronics, Ramakrishna Mission Vidyamandira. Views expressed are personal