(Pixabay photo)

Greater Victoria internet safety company warns public about spike in catfishing, sextortion scams

Young males being targeted through social media, scammers demanding money

A local internet safety company is warning of a recent spike in catfishing and sextortion scams on social media.

The White Hatter, a company committed to internet and social media safety and digital literacy put out a safety alert on Facebook saying the company has recently helped “several teens and one young adult who were ‘catfished’ which then led to sextortion.”

Darren Laur, a former police sergeant and owner of The White Hatter, said that while catfishing and sextortion scams are nothing new, there has been an increase in people reaching out to the company for help since school has let out.

The term catfishing is used when someone is pretending to be another person online. Laur said real people — women who he believes are being trafficked — are connecting with typically young adult and teen males on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

READ ALSO: Disturbing Momo Challenge a ‘teachable moment’ social media exper says

The women slowly enter what Laur calls a “grooming process,” to see if the individual is open to sexual discussion. Then, they’ll ask to switch to a more private app like Whatsapp — which is encrypted — and will engage in sexually explicit behaviour on camera in the hopes their target will reciprocate.

If the target does send a sexually explicit video back, the scammers record it, sending screenshots of the video and the individual’s social media friends and followers list back to them. They threaten to share the video with the victim’s friends and family unless they are paid a certain amount of money through what is typically a paypal account.

“It’s extortion, or more commonly known as sextortion,” Laur said.

Laur said he has worked on many cases like these but said the recent ones appear to be coming from a group working out of the Ivory Coast area in Africa.

“It’s very profitable for them,” Laur said.

Many individuals being targeted by these scams reach out to Laur and his company for help. The latest case he worked on dealt with a 20-year-old who contacted The White Hatter in a panic, worried about his reputation.

READ ALSO: Langford man awarded prestigious policing award

In addition to contacting the police, Laur said he advises people not to send money to the scammers.

“If you pay, they know they’ve landed a whale and will go after you for more,” Laur said.

He recommends victims block and delete the scammers and have no further contact with them. In the over 100 cases Laur has worked on so far, he said not one of them ended in their videos or photos being published.

“I’m not saying it won’t happen…there’s always a possibility…but it’s rare,” Laur said. “I think it’s because they just move to the next target. Why would they waste their time?”

Laur said victims of these scams can also set up Google alerts using the screen names the scammers use and their real name. That way, if anything is posted on a network that Google searches, the victims will receive a notification.

The best practice, however is to avoid sending sexual photos or videos unless you’ve met the person on the other end face-to-face, in real life.

“As soon as you hit the send button there’s no pulling back,” Laur said.

shalu.mehta@goldstreamgazette.com


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Free firework safety courses coming to the West Shore right before Halloween

No permit? You could be fined anywhere between $100 and $10,000

Vendors open doors to new futures at Black Press Extreme Education & Career Fair

More tham two dozen employers, educators signed on for Victoria event

Persons Day to be marked with literary readings in Sidney

Peninsula authors to read from their new books relating to women and courageous journeys, Oct. 18

Fairfield-Gonzales residents aim to establish senior care phone line

The Fairfield-Gonzales Village would allow seniors living alone to have a direct line to resources

Antimatter 2019: The best in experimental media art comes to Victoria

22nd annual festival of film, performance art and more biggest ever – 120 artists, 30 countries

B.C.’s rural paramedic program expands, with home support

Advanced care ambulance staff added for six communities

‘Save the kids!’ Dorian survivor tells the harrowing story of his Canadian wife’s death

Family held a funeral and placed Alishia Liolli’s remains in a niche at a cemetery in Windsor, Ont.

Okanagan woman, 91, votes at advance polls despite broken hip, shoulder and wrist

Angela Maynard has voted in almost every election during her lifetime

Heiltsuk Nation open first Big House in 120 years in northern B.C.

Opening means the community now has an appropriate space for spiritual and ceremonial events

Singh says NDP would form coalition with the Liberals to stop Tories

Singh was in a Liberal-held riding Sunday afternoon in Surrey where he was pressed about his post-election intentions

‘My heart goes out to the mother’: B.C. dad reacts to stabbing death of Ontario boy

Carson Crimeni, who was also 14, was bullied relentlessly, his dad says

The one with the ‘Friends’ photoshoot: Kelowna group recreates TV show intro

A friend’s departure prompted them to create something that really says, “I’ll be there for you”

Canadian Snowbirds plane crashes before air show in Atlanta

Pilot lands safely after ejecting from jet

Share crash data, private insurers tell David Eby, ICBC

B.C. monopoly makes drivers retrieve their own records

Most Read