CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Do you use a dating app? Think twice before sending any revealing photos or videos.
Some crooks take a sinister approach to romance scams by blackmailing their victims. As romance scams become more complex in the digital age, criminals can demand payment to prevent compromising photos or videos of a victim from being distributed online or sent directly to people the victim knows. .
“In April 2021, an Austin resident reported to BBB Scam Tracker that he had been contacted by an individual claiming to be a hacker who had accessed the victim’s webcam without their knowledge,” said Katie Galan of the BBB .
In order to prevent the recorded video from being sent to the victim’s contacts and subsequent social networks, the scammer demanded $ 1,000 via bitcoin transactions within 48 hours, Galan said.
This month, a Waco-area resident reported to BBB Scam Tracker that he was contacted by someone on Facebook who seemed interested in a romantic relationship and made a video call.
After the call ended, the scammer told the victim that the video was recorded and demanded payment through gift cards or mobile banking apps to prevent the video from being shown online.
While these scams generally progress in the same way as the Austin resident’s experience, BBB Scam Tracker recently saw a nationwide increase in reports of the victim voluntarily providing compromising material to the scammer after meeting via a dating app or social networking site – falling straight into their scam or ploy.
Here’s how the scam works:
You meet someone you are interested in on a dating app. The person sends you risky photos of themselves and asks for them in return.
If you send the images or videos, then the scammer will start blackmailing you. Scammers use your phone number or social media profile to look up the names of your friends, family, and even co-workers or supervisor. Then they threaten to send those photos to your contacts.
According to a report, after a compromising video call, a woman started “blackmailing me, [threatening] broadcast the video footage on social media and send it to my friends and family. [Then] a guy took over the blackmail. They were asking for $ 3,000.
According to Galan, “Scammers often request payment by gift card or wire transfer, all methods that cannot be traced to them and prevent you from getting your funds back. If you cooperate, you will lose your money, and there is no guarantee that the crooks will remove the images and videos. In fact, scammers will likely continue to contact you, periodically asking you for more money. “
Galan has advice from the BBB on how to avoid these scams.
“Never share your personal information with someone you just met,” Galan said. “Don’t give out your cell phone number, home address, email address, or even your social media profile to a stranger. Wait until you know and trust someone, preferably when you already have it. met in person. “
Look for your love interest. A telltale sign that you are dealing with a con artist is a stolen profile picture. Perform a reverse image search of the person’s profile photo to make sure it’s not used under a different name or across multiple profiles.
Think before you send photos or videos. Once you send a photo or video, you cannot retrieve it. Remember that even video calls can be recorded and use common sense to protect your reputation.
Don’t pay crooks money. Even if you pay them, you have no guarantee that the crooks won’t use the photos or videos anyway. In addition, your money could finance criminal activities.
If you have any concerns about a scam, product, or business, log on to the BBB website here for more information.