Commentary by J. Douglas Kouns
Our investigators at Veracity recently have worked a series of sextortion cases. Sextortion is when someone has or claims to have compromising pictures of you. They demand payment threatening to send them to your friends, family and/or post them on social media. We recommend calling the police, but the reality is most won’t because of embarrassment.
Often, it’s just a bluff. Sextorters claim to have obtained pictures by hacking your computer or accessing your web cam. Whether or not they really have them, don’t pay! If they don’t really have pictures, you didn’t fall for it; case closed. If they do have pictures, they will continue to bleed you financially until you can’t pay anymore and will release them anyway.
Veracity was able to help one individual because the sextorter had been picking up cash payments after advising the victim where to leave them. We set up a surveillance operation and took photos and video of him retrieving an empty envelope. We also obtained his license plate and quickly identified him.
The bad guy emailed an angry note about the empty envelope and made his next threat and demand. He was quite surprised when the response to his threat came with his full name and address along with pictures of him and his car! This ended successfully, but it rarely goes so well.
Foremost, don’t keep this kind of material on your computer or phone. Ensure you have adequate security. Use long and strong passwords and change them frequently. Enable two factor authentications wherever possible. Update your operating system as soon as updates become available. Don’t click on links from unknown sources and never release personal identifying information to someone you don’t know. There are many more measures you can and should take, but these are the simple ones that have a big impact on your security and safety.