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Author Topic: FBI Releases Warning on Sextortion Scams Targeting Teenagers  (Read 287 times)
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« on: July 05, 2019, 12:45:20 AM »

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued a warning on Twitter regarding sextortion campaigns used by scammers to target young people from all over the United States.

"The internet connects you with the world. Do you know who in the world is connecting with you? Sending one explicit image can start a scary cycle," says the FBI in a tweet shared on July 3.

The agency also added to their alert the fact that sextortion scams usually rely on photos sent by potential victims to people they don't know in real life.

In a story published on FBI's official website at the end of May, the agency states that it is currently "seeing a significant increase in activity involving sextortion—a federal crime that happens when an adult coerces a child to produce sexually explicit photographs or video of themselves and then send it to them over the Internet."

The scammers who operate sextortion campaigns that impact kids usually make use of a variety of channels to contact their young targets from social media and gaming platforms to video and dating chat apps.

FBI Special Agent Brian Herrick stated that "the FBI is seeing an increasing number of cases start on connected gaming systems, where the competition is intense and the offer of game credits or codes is enough to convince a child to create an explicit image."

Extortionists also employ several methods to coerce the kids to send them explicit content in the form of images or videos, from flattery and attention to involving romantic interest in their online relationship, and even offering money and various other valuable items, with threats also being involved in many cases if no other measures are successful.

"The second the criminal gets a picture, that child’s life is going to be turned upside down," said Special Agent Ryan Barrett, who worked on the Finkbiner’s sextortion case from April 2012."These people are relentless. They don’t care."

Scammers increasingly using sextortion

Scammers increasingly using sextortion

As Kaspersky Principal Security Researcher Ido Naor told BleepingComputer in an email exchange, their "research suggests that many sextortion attacks appear to originate in Africa. Further, our latest spam and phishing analysis noted a rise towards the end of 2018 in the volume of sextortion-based email spam. These can use personal data harvested from earlier data breaches to tailor and lend authenticity to the threatening emails."

The researchers also added that, while extortionists who used spam campaigns to reach their victims — kids and adults alike — mainly focused on English-speaking targets, new campaigns were seen sending emails in other languages by the end of 2018, including German, Italian, Arabic, and Japanese.

"We are aware of dozens of sextortion cases over the last year, often using popular online video platforms to post alleged victim content, or contacting victims over social media accounts. Such attacks are not only illegal and malicious but deeply distressing for the individuals involved," also added Naor.

In one of the sextortion incidents described by Naor, "the attacker had uploaded videos claiming to belong to the victim onto an account the hacker had set up on the online video platform, XVideos, using the alias: 'Ahmed2130'."

Subsequently, the Kaspersky Lab team "reported the videos as malicious content to XVideos, which promptly took them down and deleted the account. The hacker appears to have disappeared."

When asked by BleepingComputer about how often take downs due to sextortion appear to be occurring, an XVideos spokesperson said that they are "manually deleting something like 1 account per week on average. And most of the time we notice them before they start accumulating strikes - often people are afraid to fill out the take-down form, so they contact us by mail."

Ido Naor also shared these steps to be taken by anyone targeted by a sextortion scam to control the potential damage:

• First of all: seek help. Tell someone what is happening so the damage can be contained.

• Don’t respond to any communications from the attacker – but do not delete the messages as they could help investigators.

• Remember that it doesn’t benefit the attacker to release the content they claim to hold, as that makes it useless for extorting money.

• As soon as there is proof of intent to blackmail: for example, the attacker shares a link to a video and makes a demand for payment – share that with a security professional who can submit a report to the relevant video platform and get the file taken down.

• Let the police know – they may not be able to assist in your particular case, but it may help to protect others by allowing law enforcement to build up a body of evidence.

Preventing and reporting sextortion scams

As FBI Special Agent Damon Bateson added, these are the most relevant messages parents and caretakers have to convey to young kids so that they can better defend from scammers:

• Many people online are not who they say they are.

• Don’t talk to people you don’t know online.

• Understand that any content produced on a web-enabled device can be made public.

• If you are being threatened or coerced online, tell someone. There is help and there is hope.

The agency provides potential victims with the following contact methods to report sextortion scams:

• To report suspected sextortion, call the nearest FBI field office or 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5324).

• To make a CyberTipline Report with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), visit

Herrick explains what sextortion is and how kids are being coerced to send explicit content to extortionists in the video below.

« Last Edit: July 05, 2019, 12:53:10 AM by javajolt » Logged

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