Sextortion cases increase dramatically during the pandemic

The new outbreak of COVID-19 and the United Kingdom has proved devastating, so the authorities implement increasingly stringent measures seeking people to remain at home, even if they come to decree fines against individuals and commercial establishments that do not follow the rules. Among the many consequences of these measures is the increase in activity on dating platforms and apps.

Authorities have looked for the best ways to limit casual encounters, although platforms such as Tinder or eHarmony register new users each week, not to mention increased demand for platforms like Zoom, which allow users to interact more directly while keeping their distance. 

Users may feel safe interacting with virtual unknowns through video conferencing platforms, although they are unaware that these practices carry severe risks, including possible blackmail.

Thames Valley police have detailed a recent sextortion case against a young man who would have started a simple conversation with a stranger via Facebook. After talking a couple of times, the woman asked the victim to show her body. At the end of an explicit video call, the woman told her that the session had been recorded, demanding a payment of 200 pounds so as not to send this material to her family, friends and colleagues. The woman already had access to the victim’s Facebook contacts.

At first the young man refused to give in to blackmail, but for the next two hours he received more than 100 messages demanding payment. He eventually relented, though he only said this to buy some time, deactivate his online accounts and notify local authorities.

The Thames Valley authorities point out that sextortion is not a new practice, although current conditions have revitalized the methods of threat actors: “Criminals exploit the fear, worry and potential harm they could cause to the victims’ family and work environment to achieve their goals,” the authorities say.

Finally, the British authorities invite users to reconsider how they use their social media to interact with people who are not really known, as this practice can be highly harmful, not to mention that there is no way to know whether criminals actually delete these records after receiving payment.