WhatsApp Sextortion: What It Is? And How To Defend Yourself
With over more than 2 billion users around the world, WhatsApp has become the most popular messaging app. As a result, WhatsApp extortion is on the rise and has become a horrifying reality for tens of thousands of men and women each year.
What Is Sextortion?
Sextortion is an emerging online scam in which an attacker attempts to extort money or get victims to do something against their will by threatening to release embarrassing, personal images or their most intimate moments to their contacts, friends, and family.
Nowadays, many people are receiving video calls from unknown numbers. As soon as the receiver takes the call, a video of a nude girl is played on the screen. After some time, the call is abruptly disconnected. Shortly afterward, the scamsters send a Whatsapp text with a screen recording of the video call from the same unknown number.
If you are a victim of extortion on WhatsApp, there are several effective steps you can take to mitigate the potential damage and combat this serious cybercrime.
What Types of Extortion Are Common on WhatsApp?
While WhatsApp extortion is a relatively new phenomenon, it is becoming increasingly common as more people use the messaging app. Sextortion is the most common form of WhatsApp extortion.
Extortionists will often make their initial contact with a victim on Facebook, Instagram, or a dating app and then move the conversation to WhatsApp where their behavior becomes more aggressive or sexual.
There are numerous reasons why extortion is such a problem on WhatsApp. First, it is relatively easy for criminals to create fake accounts and contact potential victims. Second, the platform allows for anonymous communication, which can make it difficult for law enforcement to track down perpetrators. Third, WhatsApp and other messaging apps have a large user base, which gives criminals a wide pool of potential victims.
Finally, many people are not aware of the risks associated with sharing personal information on these platforms, making them more vulnerable to extortion attempts.
How To Recognize the Signs of WhatsApp Extortion?
- First, be suspicious of any messages that seem too good to be true. If an attractive individual that you do not know messages you randomly, it could be a sign that the individual is trying to scam you. If you are skeptical of a user, consider conducting reverse image searches for their profile picture or other photos they post. In many of our sextortion cases, the scammer uses photos that they stole from models or other social media accounts.
- Many online extortionists are based outside of the U.S. and do not speak English fluently, so if their messages are difficult to understand or seem to be translated or scripted, that could be a sign that you are dealing with a scammer.
- Watch out for messages that are overtly sexual or flirty from the start. These sorts of messages are a red flag, as they may indicate that the person is only interested in scamming you.
- Sextortionists try to manipulate their victims by suggesting a video call or a move to another video chat app like WhatsApp, Skype, or Zoom. During the call, they may promise to expose themselves if you do the same. However, they will actually be recording the call without your knowledge. Once they have the recording they will threaten to release the content unless you pay them money.
What Should You Avoid Doing If Someone is Extorting You on WhatsApp
Extortion is a serious crime, and it is important to know what to do – and what not to do – if you find yourself a victim of WhatsApp extortion.
1. Avoid Panicking
While this may be easier said than done, try to resist the urge to panic. When we panic, we act rashly and carelessly – which can make a terrible situation even worse.
2. Avoid Paying the Perpetrator
Do not give in to the scammer’s demands and pay them. This may seem like an obvious one, but it is important to remember that there is no guarantee that the extortionist will follow through on their promise to delete the content once they have been paid. In fact, the opposite usually occurs. The blackmailer will only continue to try to contact you for more money once their initial attempt is successful.
3. Avoid Engaging With the Perpetrator Further
Do not reply to the extortionist’s threatening messages. Instead, screenshot all messages and threats as this could become valuable evidence.
4. Avoid Trying to “Get Ahead of the Story”
Many victims of sextortion think they can “get ahead of the story” by informing their friends and family about the compromising content. However, this may be jumping the gun because situations like these can often be resolved before the extortionist ever releases the damaging content.
It is best to avoid sharing any embarrassing information about how you ended up in this position unless it is absolutely necessary.
What Steps Should You Take If You Are Extorted on WhatsApp?
Preserve All Communications With The Extortionist
If you are being extorted online, the first thing you should do is preserve all communications you have had with the perpetrator. Also, screenshot any contact information you have for the user, including screen names or email addresses. And if they have sent you any images, save screenshots of them as well.
Maximize Privacy Restrictions on All Social Media Accounts
Once you have taken steps to preserve evidence, you should maximize the privacy restrictions on all of your social media accounts. If you have any active accounts that you are not using, go ahead and disable them.
If the perpetrator attempts to send you any additional WhatsApp messages, screenshot them as soon as they arrive, so they are not automatically deleted.
Report the Extortionist to WhatsApp & Cybercrime Agencies
The next step is to report the crime to WhatsApp and the IC3 to help prevent the scammer from targeting other unsuspecting victims.
Consult With Law Enforcement or an Online Extortion Attorney
Finally, contact your local law enforcement and an experienced online extortion attorney. They can help you hold the perpetrator accountable and prevent or respond to the release of any damaging content.
Report the Account to WhatsApp
First, block and report the contact on WhatsApp by taking the following steps:
- Open WhatsApp, tap More options > Settings.
- Tap Account > Privacy > Blocked contacts.
- Tap Add.
- Search for or select the contact you want to block.
Report the Account to the FBI’s Internet Crimes Complaint Center (IC3)
It is also recommended to report the crime to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). The IC3 is a program that collects, analyzes, and refers to complaints concerning cybercrime.
Filing a complaint with the IC3 may not yield immediate benefits, but it will help to draw attention to the scam for tracking purposes. It could also lead to the discovery of sophisticated extortion schemes and could help reduce these types of threats over time.
To make an IC3 report, fill out their short online form. The FBI website provides a detailed explanation of how to file a complaint, as well as answers to other common questions.
Report Extortion to Your Local Authorities
Your local authorities may also have a cyber crimes unit available to help you.
The easiest method of contacting your local police department is by using a search engine to find the location of the nearest precinct office. Call or visit the precinct in person to deliver your complaint. Make sure to provide as much information about the crime as possible, including any evidence that you may have saved.
Cybercriminals usually find one way to another to trap people. That is why you should be careful on Facebook, Instagram, and any other social media also. Never accept friend or messenger requests from unknown people. This is how you can mitigate scams online.