State Representative Dan Caulkins Announces House Bill 1137 Requiring Hospitals to Notify Patient of Medical Record ChangesFebruary 3, 2023
A Comparative Analysis of FAT, NTFS, EXT, and APFS File Systems in Forensic ExaminationsAugust 22, 2023
If you’re reading this, odds are you’ve sent a nude or suggestive photo to someone at some point in your life—and you wouldn’t be alone. A third of Americans have shared a nude photo, an intimacy expert and certified sexologist told the New York Post. In fact, they send 1.8 million nudes per day (20 per second), according to a survey from Bad Girls Bible. That gives scammers a lot of people they can easily blackmail, whether they actually have your nudes or not.
There are two types of nudes scammers: One throws a wide net to see who they get, and the other is more deliberate and personal. The former plays a numbers game; they know a third of Americans have nudes circulating somewhere, so they use that to their advantage by threatening to “release” their nudes to their friends and family unless they get paid (also known as sextortion). The latter actually has your nudes, and wants money in return for not sending them to your friends and family.
How sextortion scams work
Regardless of which type of criminal we’re talking about, the scam works the same way: The scammer will contact you through email, social media, or text, and threaten to release your pictures unless you pay them a certain sum of money. This will be through a payment app that can’t be traced or returned, like cash, crypto, prepaid cards or gift cards, masked credit cards, or PayPal.
The problem is that law enforcement doesn’t really care if you paid someone $500 to not release a picture of your junk (unless you’re underage). Sure, they’ll write a report and file it, but it’s very unlikely they’ll investigate. They don’t really have the tools or digital forensic skills to track down these scammers; they simply have bigger fish to fry. Thankfully, there are still ways to prevent being in that situation, and best practices to follow if you’re involved in a sextortion case.
How to avoid being a sextortion victim
It goes without saying that you should never send nude pictures to someone you’ve never met in person. There is an extraordinary amount of fake accounts online (especially on dating apps) with a primary mission to gather nudes from people and sell them to scammers—or to scam people themselves. Giving your nudes away is playing Russian roulette with your money, privacy, and mental health. Even if you send the pictures to people you have met in person, they can share it with others or simply have their own phones hacked.
Therefore, the best line of defense is one that might already not work for most people: Never take nudes. Notice the word take instead of send. Although possibly an extreme measure to some, there is good reason behind this. Simply, anyone’s phone can be easily stolen or hacked. You might think having your photos on a “safe” folder or app might mean they’re safe, but the reality is that no app or phone is 100% safe.
Even if you want them just for yourself or for your partner, not taking any nudes is a foolproof way to live stress-free that the worst-case scenario could happen. And this way, you’ll know every scammer who claims to have nude pictures of you is bluffing.
What to do if someone says they have nude pictures of you
The best way to deal with someone will depend which type of scammer they are. The first and most important thing to do is to identify if they are the bluffing type, or a scammer who actually has your pictures: So start by asking them to show you the pictures. Bluffers will make up a reason as to why they have the pictures but can’t show them to you—but you’ll know they’re bluffing.
If a scammer shows you proof of your nude photos, you have a couple of options next, depending on your net worth.
How to deal with sextortion if your net worth is over $150k
If you choose to make a first payment to the scammer, Andrew Garrett, CEO of Garrett Discovery, a digital forensics consulting firm that handles sextortion cases and act as a consultant for the FBI, says individuals with a net worth of $150,000 or higher should never make a second payment to scammers. Odds are you’ll fly under the radar if you make the first low payment since scammers deal with multiple victims at once, but once you make a second one, you’ll be flagged and studied. If they find out you’re a high net worth individual, they are very likely to ask for significantly higher sums of money, and they will not stop. High net worth individuals should seek help from law firms that specialize in sextortion cases before paying scammers as soon as possible. Help from a law firm can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000, at minimum.
How to deal with sextortion if your net worth is lower
For those with a lower net work, there are two options: You can pay the amount being asked (according to Garrett, most sextortionists ask for around $500). Garrett says the whole sextortion enterprise ironically follows a strict code of conduct that maintains their business-model functioning. If scammers don’t keep their promise of not releasing your nudes after being paid, their whole business model can collapse since folks will learn to not bother paying them. On top of that, they don’t want to run the risk of having a victim being invested in catching the scammers by hiring digital forensic experts to track them down.
If you want to be safer, your best bet is to seek professional help from a digital forensic firms. Garret recommends you do some digging on before hiring one because they’re not all reputable, and some are even scammers in disguise that will post your pictures on a website and then charge you to take them down.
Here is what to look for when hiring a sextortion expert:
- If the company testifies in sextortion cases in court routinely, they’re legit. Courts determine if they are credible companies, and if they’re good enough for the courts, they’ll be good enough for you.
- Check out their Better Business Bureau reviews.
- Call them and ask them to give you references, specifically law firms they’ve worked with. Then ask those law firms to give you a rundown of their work. Have they dealt with them before? What do they know about their work in sextortion? Are they legit?
If you are an underage victim
If you (or your child) are underage (or were under age at the time when the nudes were taken), law enforcement is your best bet, since it’s considered child pornography.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), a private, nonprofit child protection organization also provides a free service called “Take It Down,” which works to help stop the online sharing of explicit imagery of children under 18. It will remove or stop the online sharing of sexually explicit images or videos for underage people.
If your nudes are already posted
According to Garret, it’s rare for sextortion cases to get to this point, since once they post your nudes online, they no longer have any leverage on you. Most of these cases are revenge porn situations from people the victim knows. At this stage, the best thing to do is hire a law firm or digital forensic firm to do a takedown notice of the nudes.
You can also call the Federal Trade Commission Consumer Response Center at 877-382-4357 and AARP Fraud Watch Network at 877-908-3360 to report your sextortion and see what they can do for you.
The FBI provides recommendations for sharing content online, as well as resources for sextortion victims on their website. They also urge victims to report exploitation by calling the local FBI field office, calling 1-800-CALL-FBI or reporting it online.
Article & Image reposted from: What to Do If You Become a Victim of ‘Sextortion’