• Teens among victims in extortion scams

    TEENAGE girls are among a significant number of people in the ethekwini area who have fallen prey to extortion scams involving adult online activity.

    Victims have been tricked into paying from R5 000 to R35 000, often in cryptocurrency, and most are too embarrassed to report these scams to police.

    A private investigator warned victims never to pay scammers because blackmailers never let them off the hook.

    Prem Balram, of the Reaction Unit SA (Rusa) security company, said two 17-year-olds had approached him, too embarrassed to tell their parents, let alone lay charges with the police.

    “There are lots of cases like this. People are being tricked into paying amounts between R5 000 and R35 000.” There had been cases of men preying on women and women preying on men.

    Investigator Rick Crouch reported receiving calls from “15 to 16 people in the Durban area” who had received threatening emails. “They say they will reveal your adult-website habits and send video of you to your contacts unless you send them Bitcoin, usually $1 200 (R17 000) or $3 800’s worth.”

    Crouch said his clients had also been reluctant to report the matter to police.

    Police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala said no incidents appeared to have been reported to police. “People are urged to report similar incidents or any other criminal activities to the police.”

    Balram told of a 24-year-old man who approached his company after a woman extorted R35 000 from him after he sent her nude pictures.

    “The victim had accepted an invite on Facebook and after a brief chat, he exchanged his Whatsapp number with the female. During a conversation, he informed her of his residential area, family business and personal details.

    “Within a few days they exchanged nude pictures and the woman began demanding money and threatening to expose the nude pictures on social media.” The man forked out R35 000 in cash. The suspect was a female, believed to be a Tongaat resident, Balram said.

    On men conning females, he spoke of two women who, in separate scams, received about 20 invitations and messages a day on Facebook Messenger after they had posted selfies on social media.

    “The men, who were from South Africa and India, complimented the women on their appearances and convinced them to chat on Whatsapp and Messenger. After lengthy conversations, they eventually exchanged pictures of their breasts and private parts.”

    Blackmailing followed, first with requests for small amounts of money and then larger amounts.

    “In their initial conversations, both women had given the men details of their work and residential addresses as well as the schools their children attended. Both paid large amounts of money out of fear for their safety.

    “One was unemployed and sold personal items and borrowed money to pay the extortionists.”

    Crouch said email scams involved messages with subject lines that included a password that victims had probably used at some point, or their ID numbers.

    “The sender says they have used that password to hack your computer, install malware, and record video of you through your webcam.

    “These passwords and user names most likely came from a data breach years ago and have been circulating on the internet for some time. They’re hoping you’re scared enough to believe their story and send them Bitcoin.”

    Crouch cautioned people never to pay any scammer. “Once you make that first payment, they will never go away. If you are still using the password being referenced in the email, change it immediately.”
    By \duncan \guy
    Originally Published: 28 July 2019

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