QUANTICO, VA.– The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command’s Computer Crime Investigative Unit continues to caution the Army community to be on the lookout for all types of “sextortion” scams where criminals will use any method to make contact with potential victims and then attempt to blackmail them.
“To avoid falling prey to a sextortionist, never send compromising photos or videos of yourself to anyone, whether you know them or think you know them,” said Special Agent Daniel Andrews, director of CCIU. “Turn off your electronic devices and physically block web cameras when you are not using them.”
Officials describe sextortion scams as cyber sexual extortion where perpetrators conduct schemes that leverage online sexual acts for financial gain or other forms of blackmail.
In addition, when using a legitimate online dating site, victims are more apt to provide personal information and or participate in online “compromising acts;” however, CID officials are warning the Army community to be very cautious of their online communications activity and not share intimate, personal information with strangers or people they have never met in person.
“These criminals will try to get unsuspecting service members to engage in online sexual activities and then demand money or favors in exchange for not publicizing potentially embarrassing information or turning them over to law enforcement,” Andrews said.
Once the Soldier sends a compromising photo or participates in a video chat, the perpetrator threatens to send those images to the Soldier’s command, Family and friends unless ransom money is paid, according to CCIU officials. In one recent scam, the criminal will claim that the Soldier sent sexual images to a minor, who has now become the alleged victim, and threaten to report the Soldier to law enforcement unless a monetary fee is paid.
“If you meet a person on a legitimate online dating site, there is very little chance that you are actually communicating with an underage person,” Andrews said. “It is therefore very unlikely that you sent or received child pornography or provided your images or videos to a minor. If you met someone online who later claims to be underage, you should immediately cease all communications with that person and notify Army CID.”
“It is important to also keep in mind that law enforcement, to include Army CID, will never agree to not take legal action if you agree to pay (ransom) money to the alleged victim or to the alleged victim’s family,” he said. “If law enforcement gets involved early on, there are investigative steps that may help identify the perpetrators responsible for victimizing Army personnel.”
Another way the criminals attempt to extort money is to claim they are a lawyer working on behalf of the alleged victim. The scammer will request payments are made for things such as counseling for the alleged victim and to replace electronic devices that now contain child pornography. If these demands are not met, the person alleging to be the lawyer threatens to report the incident to law enforcement.
Andrews said legitimate organizations will not contact you and ask for money in lieu of reporting you to law enforcement, and typically law enforcement will not attempt to make contact with you over the phone. If you are contacted via telephone, always request validating information such as an agency email address and offer to meet in person at a law enforcement facility before proceeding with giving out your personal information.
“Stop communication immediately with these individuals, and do not send money because it will not stop the criminal from demanding more money from you,” CCIU officials said. “CCIU is aware of instances where scammers threatened to release videos unless a second or even a third payment is made.”
Unfortunately, these incidents continue to occur on the internet across the globe, and sextortion victims are encouraged to seek the assistance of law enforcement.
For more information about computer security, computer-related scams, cyber-crime alert notices and cyber-crime prevention flyers, visit www.cid.army.mil/cciu-advisories.html.
For more information on CID, visit www.cid.army.mil. To report a felony-level crime, provide information concerning a crime, or if you are the victim of a crime, contact your local CID Office, the Military Police, call 1-844-ARMY-CID (844-276-9243) or email CID at Army.CID.Crime.Tips@mail.mil.