Only 0.1% of sextortion crimes reported due to social stigma: Maharashtra Cyber cops

Mumbai: The cyber fraudsters have turned to sextortion-- a practice of extorting money or sexual favours from someone by threatening to reveal evidence of their sexual activity. The new difference that has been observed in these disturbing trends is that the women are now behind cameras, and not the male cyber fraudsters who hold a mobile with a woman's recording on. Police, however, claim that only around 0.1 percent of sextortion crimes are reported due to social stigma.

In a series of cases recorded by Mumbai Police, sextortion has emerged to be one of the most reported ones, targeting men, especially senior citizens. Explaining the modus operandi, a senior Cyber official said that these accused women send friend requests on Facebook to men in bulk, mainly senior citizens, and then chat with them on the Messenger application, slowly coaxing up to them by sending greetings and forward messages, taking them in confidence.

"After a couple of weeks, or maybe days, these women then ask the victim to share their personal WhatsApp number to chat with them, which is followed by a video call. When the victim answers the call, the woman on screen is naked and asks the man to engage in lewd sexual activity with her over the call. The trick that these fraudsters use is to screen record the entire conversation and act, which is later used to blackmail and extort money from them to not make the video public," added the cyber official, clarifying that these women seem to be doing it with their own will.

If a person falls prey to the sexual activity bait, they are immediately asked to wire money in a series of transactions, and when the victim refuses to pay, the fraudsters send the video to a couple of people from the victim's friend list, who then inform him of the video gone viral.

"This fraud has been happening daily on a large number, but only 0.1 percent of victims approach the police. Once reported, the police can trace the Internet Protocol (IP) address and track the accused, while the money too can be recovered, but due to the social stigma attached to it," said Yashasvi Yadav, Special Inspector General of Police, Maharashtra Cyber.

Last week, a 26-year-old man fell prey to sextortion and ended up coughing up ₹32,495 to a woman he had befriended on Facebook and then had an intimate video chat, only to be blackmailed and face extortion to keep the video private. A case was lodged at Andheri police station. In another incident, at Andheri, a 57-year-old man was blackmailed and his nude video was uploaded on a social media platform when he refused to fall prey to the extortion bid. According to the victim, he was befriended by an unidentified woman on Facebook, who soon approached him and exchanged numbers, only to make objectionable video calls and later engage in sextortion.

Stay safe

1. Never pose nude, share intimate pictures over online video calls/social media platforms with unknown person.

2. Avoid clicking intimate/nude semi-nude photos/videos on your phone, which if leaked could cause embarrassment.

3. Report sextortion to a nearby police station or on cybercrime.gov.in immediately. Don't hesitate in filing a complaint or contacting the police.

4. Don't shame, embarrass and self-blame. Use the "Report User" option over social media platforms to report any such accounts.

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