The golden rule remains. Never, never, never accept friend requests from strangers on Facebook (now Meta). What begins as just a casual acquaintance, soon shifts to exchanging numbers, getting onto WhatsApp and thereon, intensifies the crime.
In a recent briefing by the Intelligence Fusion and Strategic Operations (IFSO) unit of the Delhi Police Special Cell, eight kingpins have been traced in the last one year. Each handler deals with hundreds of victims and based on multiple complaints, there have been six arrests so far. Interestingly, the sextortion racket operators are densely rooted in the Mewat-Bharatpur-Alwar belt in Rajasthan.
Police sources added that in one case, a single IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number showed the use of as many as 1,100 SIM cards to harass the victim from different numbers. Usually, the target is men in their early to late 40s and the entrapment is the display picture “ripped off the net” of an attractive young woman. The victims have ranged from a senior doctor at a reputed Delhi hospital and a UP police officer, to businessmen and men with a political background.
So, how does one define sextortion?
Well, it means holding the hostage ransom to some compromising act caught on camera till the money is paid up.
But what if I do not pay up?
Blackmailing begins. The “friend” will threaten to upload your private moment video either on YouTube or circulate it on WhatsApp.
Does it end after payment?
No. The first payment is only the beginning.
Then, what do I do?
Get over the social stigma attached to your weak moment. Seek help from the police and report it even before you make the first payment.
Using photos of real women is the crux. Once a bond is established, the “sex talk” begins. After a basic level, the scammers plan out the real plot. “While the target uses the front camera, the accused the back camera to relay an adult video from a pornographic website. Thereon, when caught in the act, the target is filmed and as soon as the call ends, the target receives a message demanding money,” the source said.
Sometimes, when the bait refuses to pay up, a call is made that flashes as YouTube Officer on Truecaller. The target is told that their video has been uploaded on YouTube and that they will need to pay to take it down since it violates rules. If this does not work, then another call impersonating a police officer is made. Using voice modulation software, the amount demanded per victim ranges from Rs 5,000 to Rs 2 to Rs 3 lakhs. “Amount is fixed on the basis of the victim’s status,” said K.P.S. Malhotra, DCP Cyber Cell, IFSO.