Sextortionist cyber threats can milk vulnerable dry of their cash and cause fear as they fall foul to online lures.
A PRETORIA teenager was forced to pay more than R20 000 to avoid being reported to police or have his naked pictures posted on social media.
When his savings and pocket money eventually ran out, the 18-year-old, only identified as S, decided enough was enough.
“I lived in fear because they said they were going to report me to the police for sexual harassment. I was terrified this would happen because I thought I did something wrong. Also, my parents had no idea about this.”
The youngster told the Pretoria News that every time his phone buzzed, he broke out in cold sweat because he knew it was yet another demand for money.
But last month when they once again demanded a payment, he realised he could not continue.
“I decided to block them, even though I feared the police would come and arrest me. I have, however, not heard from them again.”
And, as expected, there was no case opened against him with the SAPS.
He said it all started a few months ago when an attractive girl befriended him on Instagram.
“She started to DM (direct message) me and she asked whether we can start chatting on Whatsapp, which we did.
“She then started to ask me to send nude pictures of myself. I refused, but she kept on asking. She then sent a nude picture of herself and eventually I relented and did the same.”
This was the start of his nightmare; he got a message from her saying that she was underage and if he did not pay her R10 000, she would go to the police and she would post his naked picture on social media.
The teenager said although he did not believe she was underage, given her picture, he started to be afraid and paid the R10 000.
She assured him it would be a once-off payment, but several more demands for smaller amounts followed, until he had paid everything he had – his savings and monthly pocket money which he got from his parents.
“I didn’t fear so much that my picture would appear on social media. I was just terrified of the police and the fact that my parents still to this day know nothing about this.”
The teen said he hoped this was the end of his ordeal because he was a first-year student, living with his parents, and this nightmare consumed his entire life.
Private investigator Mike Bolhuis, of Specialised Security services, in his blog on social media, said sextortion was rife.
He said his company was contacted on almost a daily basis about this and by concerned parents, anxious as children were not always aware of the dangers posed by smartphones and the various applications open to sextortionists and cybercriminals.
He explained that in these cases a cyber relationship usually started to develop with a victim via any of the social media apps. The conversation usually escalated to photo and pornographic images, used by the scammer to extort money from the unsuspecting victim.
Bolhuis advised that a person should resist sending personal information or pictures of themselves which could be used and manipulated, and never pay up.
“Sextortion is the latest form of cyber exploitation. Most people you meet online are not who they say they are … Sextortionists often befriend victims online by using a fake identity.”
Bolhuis warned people, especially youngsters, to be alert while on social media.