Online dating has been booming amid the pandemic, but police here are warning people looking for companionship on the internet to be cautious after receiving numerous reports of sexual extortion – often dubbed ‘sextortion’ – scams.
“These suspects begin conversations with potential victims that soon progress into those of a sexual nature,” York Regional Police (YRP) Const. Laura Nicolle says.
“The suspects encourage the victims to send photos or participate in video calls with their clothing removed or as they perform sexual acts on themselves, which are then recorded without their knowledge or consent. The suspects then tell the victims that if they don’t receive money by wire transfer, the video and images will be released on social media and emailed to family and friends.”
Some suspects use fake photos to pose as someone else, but others use their own images and take part in the video calls, which makes the victim less likely to recognize the scam, Nicolle explains. YRP is reminding you to never click on links in messages from strangers via email or social networking sites.
“Remember, not everyone is who they say they are on the internet or dating apps. If you do not know a person well enough to trust them with sensitive material, do not share it with them,” Nicolle advises. “Be cautious when online. If a situation feels suspicious, trust your instincts. Do not be talked into providing photos, video, personal information or payments by methods with which you are unfamiliar or uncomfortable.”
YRP investigators believe there are likely additional victims who are embarrassed to report the scam. Victims who would like to report the scam to police should call 1-866-876-5423. Or, call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-tips or leave an anonymous tip online at www.1800222tips.com.