(Pixabay photo)

Greater Victoria internet safety company warns public about spike in catfishing, sextortion scams

Young males being targeted through social media, scammers demanding money

A local internet safety company is warning of a recent spike in catfishing and sextortion scams on social media.

The White Hatter, a company committed to internet and social media safety and digital literacy put out a safety alert on Facebook saying the company has recently helped “several teens and one young adult who were ‘catfished’ which then led to sextortion.”

Darren Laur, a former police sergeant and owner of The White Hatter, said that while catfishing and sextortion scams are nothing new, there has been an increase in people reaching out to the company for help since school has let out.

The term catfishing is used when someone is pretending to be another person online. Laur said real people — women who he believes are being trafficked — are connecting with typically young adult and teen males on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

READ ALSO: Disturbing Momo Challenge a ‘teachable moment’ social media exper says

The women slowly enter what Laur calls a “grooming process,” to see if the individual is open to sexual discussion. Then, they’ll ask to switch to a more private app like Whatsapp — which is encrypted — and will engage in sexually explicit behaviour on camera in the hopes their target will reciprocate.

If the target does send a sexually explicit video back, the scammers record it, sending screenshots of the video and the individual’s social media friends and followers list back to them. They threaten to share the video with the victim’s friends and family unless they are paid a certain amount of money through what is typically a paypal account.

“It’s extortion, or more commonly known as sextortion,” Laur said.

Laur said he has worked on many cases like these but said the recent ones appear to be coming from a group working out of the Ivory Coast area in Africa.

“It’s very profitable for them,” Laur said.

Many individuals being targeted by these scams reach out to Laur and his company for help. The latest case he worked on dealt with a 20-year-old who contacted The White Hatter in a panic, worried about his reputation.

READ ALSO: Langford man awarded prestigious policing award

In addition to contacting the police, Laur said he advises people not to send money to the scammers.

“If you pay, they know they’ve landed a whale and will go after you for more,” Laur said.

He recommends victims block and delete the scammers and have no further contact with them. In the over 100 cases Laur has worked on so far, he said not one of them ended in their videos or photos being published.

“I’m not saying it won’t happen…there’s always a possibility…but it’s rare,” Laur said. “I think it’s because they just move to the next target. Why would they waste their time?”

Laur said victims of these scams can also set up Google alerts using the screen names the scammers use and their real name. That way, if anything is posted on a network that Google searches, the victims will receive a notification.

The best practice, however is to avoid sending sexual photos or videos unless you’ve met the person on the other end face-to-face, in real life.

“As soon as you hit the send button there’s no pulling back,” Laur said.

shalu.mehta@goldstreamgazette.com


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Driver slapped with $483 ticket for excessive speeding in Saanich construction zone

Police traffic unit reminds drivers to slow down in McKenzie interchange

Sidney Museum showcases Snapshots of Canada exhibit

Photo exhibition displays ‘triumphs, failures and sacrifices’ of the nation

Legion in Langford keeps things clean with hand sanitizer donation

Legion aims to draw in new members and volunteers

Victoria police investigating chop-shop found in Beacon Hill Park

Police asking public to register bikes with them in case lost or stolen

Island Health issues Victoria overdose advisory

Health authority warns of increase in overdoses from opioids and stimulants

Recent surge in COVID-19 cases not unexpected amid Phase Three of reopening: B.C.’s top doc

Keep circles small, wear masks and be aware of symptoms, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of July 13

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

B.C. NDP changing WorkSafeBC regulations to respond to COVID-19

Employers say reclassifying coronavirus could be ‘ruinous’

Statistical flaws led to B.C. wolf cull which didn’t save endangered caribou as estimated

Study finds statistical flaws in an influential 2019 report supporting a wolf cull

Beloved Island woman dies at 106

Dorothy Adair adored by the many people she met in Chemainus in two short years

Man arrested for allegedly pushing unsuspecting seniors, jumping on cars at Parksville mall

Cops arrest man after ‘aggressive incident’ at Wembley Mall in Parksville

B.C. man who went by ‘Doctor Ray Gaglardi’ charged with sex assault of teenage boys

The man, 75, is accused of assaulting teenage boys he met through Coquitlam-area churches

B.C.’s potential deficit $12.5 billion as spending spikes, taxes drop

Finance Minister Carole James gives COVID-19 outlook

Canadians torn on scaling back COVID-19 benefits to save money: poll

Of those surveyed, 78 per cent said they were worried about the size of the deficit

Most Read