Webcam blackmail the latest tactic in ruthless scam

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Computer hackers are using webcam photos and videos to blackmail their victims while masquerading as officers of international law enforcement agencies, including the Australian Federal Police (AFP).

The scammers gain remote access to their victim’s computer through malware. Victims report getting a pop-up message on their computer which claims that the computer has been frozen by the AFP or other agencies and they are told to pay a fine via Ukash to unlock it. This bogus message can be prompted by the user accessing illegal music and movie download sites or inputting certain words into search engines.

In the latest ruthless tactic to extort money from WA victims, the victims are now reporting that the scammers have switched on the computer’s webcam remotely and photographed them. The photo is then displayed in the pop-up warning making it more alarming for the victims.

A worried Baldivis mother contacted Consumer Protection after her 13 year old daughter’s photo was taken when the family computer became infected with the AFP ransomware virus.

WA ScamNet has received other reports that scammers who befriend their victims through dating and social networking sites are obtaining sexually explicit material to use in their bribe attempts. The scammers convince the victim to strip or act in a sexual manner on webcam and record the footage. They are then blackmailed with the scammers demanding money and threatening to release the footage publicly on a video sharing website and/or sent to the victim’s family and friends via social media or email.

Commissioner for Consumer Protection Anne Driscoll is warning victims not to negotiate with scammers or pay them, otherwise they will return asking for more money.

“It’s unclear if the scammers are storing the photos and videos to use them for other purposes, however on the face of it, it appears to be an extra scare tactic to encourage quick payment of the bogus fine,” Ms Driscoll said.

“The emotional toll on the victims can be immense due to fear of embarrassment, especially if the victims are young. This blackmail tactic is being blamed for the recent suicide of a teenage boy in the UK which is a major concern for us.”

WA ScamNet has issued the following advice to computer users who may become victim to the AFP scam:

  • If your computer is locked, use an alternative device to Google or YouTube search for a step by step process to unlock it. If that doesn’t work, speak to a local computer technician. 
  • To stop your webcam being accessed without your permission by hackers, unplug it when it’s not in use or cover the lens with a piece of paper and some sticking tape.
  • To avoid your computer being compromised in the first place never click links unless you trust the source, or type the web address into your browser rather than clicking through.
  • Keep your protection software like anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewall up-to-date.
  • Do not send any money (if you do the scammers will come back for more and more)
  • Contact Consumer Protection on 1300 30 40 54 to seek help from WA ScamNet – you can stay completely anonymous if you wish
  • Make a note of Skype names or Facebook profile details as we’ll need to report those
  • Don’t panic if a video is uploaded – reporting it to YouTube or the sharing website is easy and it will be taken down very quickly

Further information and advice on scams can be found on the WA ScamNet website www.scamnet.wa.gov.au. Enquiries or scam reports can be made by email wascamnet@commerce.wa.gov.au or by phone 1300 30 40 54.

END OF RELEASE

Consumer Protection is a division of the Department of Commerce

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Media Contact:
Alan Hynd
9282 0961 or 0429-078791
alan.hynd@commerce.wa.gov.au

Consumer Protection
Media release
05 Sep 2013

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