CYBERCRIMINALS in Spain are tricking gullible teens into sharing intimate videos and then blackmailing them up to €50,000 for keeping them from friends and family.
Hiding behind fake profiles on online chat sites and dating apps, the new breed of scammers seduce teens into posing for illicit content before ‘sextorting’ them into coughing up huge amounts of cash.
The scale of the blackmailing has now been revealed by 18-year-old Àlvaro (not is real name) who revealed how an ‘innocent game’ as he was exploring his sexuality turned into a ‘nightmare’.
“He sent me my own photos and told me to pay him, and said that if I told anyone or reported him he would post everything on the internet and send the photos to my house,” Álvaro told El Pais.
The scammer’s request was for an unbelievable €50,000 – money far out of Álvaro’s reach, who was 17 at the time.
“I begged him not to ask for so much and told him I was going to work and save, so he told me to make up for it with more sexual images, and I’d do it.”
He said that when money didn’t arrive in time, the cybercriminal did not bluff in sending photographs to Álvaro’s house with a letter.
“Most commonly the attacker gains the trust of the victim by talking to them and during this time they also gain delicate information from them,” said Sara G. Antúnez, a criminal defence lawyer for Stop Haters, who succeeded in taking Álvaro’s scammer to court.
“Once they have the material, they threaten to share it.”
“It’s very common that the first reaction is to give in to the blackmail for fear of such distribution. The attacker always chooses delicate moments, which lead to a state of nervousness and extreme harassment for the victim so that they act quickly and without thinking.”
Ruining a person’s life by distributing intimate content without their consent is a crime. Article 243 of the Spanish Criminal Code states that this act can be punished with between one and five years in prison.
However, unlike Álvaro, a high percentage of people affected do not report the blackmail, according to the Guardia Civil.
According to research from cybersecurity business WatchGuard, sextortion was the second-most-used technique by cybercriminals in the last quarter of 2018.