Sextortion scammers turn to fake Facebook profiles

SA has an increasing appetite for internet porn. (Shutterstock)
SA has an increasing appetite for internet porn. (Shutterstock)

Cape Town – You should be careful about accepting Facebook friend requests from people you don’t know offline as cyber criminals prowl social networks to sexually stalk potential victims says a security expert.

“If users do this they are essentially providing a lot of personal information to someone they don’t know, and this info can and may be used again them,” Ihab Moawad, vice president of MMEA and CIS at Trend Micro told Fin24.

The security company says it has seen an uptick in 'sextortion' crimes perpetrated on Facebook. Victims are usually lured into accepting fake friend requests and the criminal will look to blackmail them with sexually explicit images.

He added that security reports have recently shown that cyber criminals can use Facebook friend requests to trick victims into downloading malware on their computers.

Criminals will also prowl the massive social network, checking for accounts that have lax privacy settings and use social engineering techniques to convince victims to accept friend requests.

Have you noticed an uptick in fake Facebook profiles or friend requests from people you don't know? Tell us by clicking here.

Police action

In the US, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) found that 31 year old Lucas Michael Chansler had posed as a female teenager as a ploy to get more than 240 girls to expose themselves to him via a webcam.

FBI Assistant Director Joseph S Campbell said that the crime is a growing international as well as domestic threat.

Criminals have realised that they can exploit the trust some people have in their social networking applications to conduct their activities.

“We have also seen cyber criminals take advantage of popular messaging applications (Line, WhatsApp), to send malicious URLs or to be used as social engineering bait. Cyber criminals have always been going for whatever is the popular means of communication and sharing information, so social networks and these new platforms are bound to be exploited by cybercriminals,” said Moawad.

That view ties with a research paper from Harvard University which found that sextortion was a growing trend thanks to modern smartphones.

“Even  though  the  term  is  not  new, modern  technology has  created  opportunities  for  online  predators  to  demand  more  photos  from  unsuspecting  teens by threatening to send the original photographs to the child’s parents or school officials if their demands  are  not  met,” wrote researchers Urs Gasser and Sandra C Cortesi in the Digitally Connected: Global Perspectives on Youth and Digital Media paper.

Once the blackmail has begun, it unlikely that the cyber crooks will stop without intervention by the authorities. Moawad suggested that reporting blackmail was the best course of action.

“Ideally, law enforcement should be involved as soon as possible.”

Watch this FBI video on how sextortion works:

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