Fake sexploitation scams involving murky overseas con artists targeting naive Kiwis are on the rise.
Netsafe said more people in recent days had reported the unwanted advances of scammers demanding ransoms after claiming to catch computer users watching porn.
And though it is possible to remotely record someone, experts say a jilted ex-partner rather than foreign scammer is more likely to do this.
“Fake sexploitation is the scam. There’s two reasons it’s an effective scam,” Netsafe chief executive Martin Cocker said. “One is, a lot of people look at porn.”
The other reason was scammers often exploited the fact internet users used the same password for multiple accounts.
A scammer might decipher someone’s LinkedIn credentials, and then use these to convince a person other accounts or software were compromised.
Even though many people looked at porn, there was little sympathy for people caught in these scams, Cocker said.
“They get absolutely slammed.”
This was a form of victim-blaming, and meant victims were often unwilling to tell anyone about their experience, he said.
Although many people insist they’d never fall for a sexploitation scam, the huge volume of emails tricksters sent meant only a few had to be duped for the scheme to pay off.
But scammers often sabotaged themselves by demanding a ransom in Bitcoin or some other cryptocurrency.
Most people even today had no clue about how to make use of cryptocurrency, let alone pay a ransom in it, Cocker said.
He said Netsafe was also aware of scammers demanding money, usually ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.
New Zealand might be home to potential victims but was a terrible place for scammers to try establish business, Cocker said.
“This is the worst place in the world to run them from. It’s too small.”
But overseas, some police forces were either too busy dealing with other crimes, or were easily bribed into ignoring such nefarious antics.
Cocker said potential victims should remember it was rare for sexploitation scammers, or anyone, to successfully record someone the way scammers claimed.
“It is technically possible. It’s quite a difficult thing to do.”
Keeping software up-to-date was the best form of prevention, the Netsafe chief executive said.
A controlling current or former partner was more likely to record another person than some offshore con artist was, Cocker said.
Private investigator Julia Hartley Moore knew of several cases where jilted people spied on former partners by infiltrating webcams or related technology.
“This is a form of revenge. They just want to control,” she said. “We get this when marriages have split up and things haven’t gone the way they want.”
Hartley Moore said she’s been asked to investigate a similar, revenge porn-style situation where a husband widely distributed intimate pictures of his wife.
“It was a terrible case… We were able to prove he did it.”
Hartley Moore said she’d received a sexploitation ransom email of the type Netsafe described.
She said the email basically warned: “They caught me and they know my name. When this gets out, you’re going to go down.”
Hartley Moore said she never replied to the “disgusting” email but said scammers knew if they bombarded enough people, eventually someone would be sucked in.
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