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News | Nov. 17, 2017

CID Lookout: Beware of ‘Sextortion’ Scams that use legitimate online dating sites

The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command’s Computer Crime Investigative Unit (CCIU) continues
to caution the Army community to be on the lookout for “sextortion scams” where criminals use legitimate
online dating sites to make contact with potential victims and then attempt to blackmail them.

When using a legitimate online dating site, victims are more apt to provide personal information and or
participate in online “compromising acts;” however, CID officials are warning Soldiers and others to be very
cautious of their online communications and activity and not share intimate, personal information with
strangers or people you have never met in person.

Officials describe “sextortion scams” as cyber sexual extortion where perpetrators conduct schemes that
leverage online sexual acts for financial gain or other forms of blackmail.

“These criminals will try to get unsuspecting service members to engage in online sexual activities and then
demand money or favors in exchange for not publicizing potentially embarrassing information or turning them
over to law enforcement,” said Marc Martin, special agent-in-charge at CCIU’s Washington Metro Office.

Once the Soldier sends a compromising photo or participates in a video chat, the perpetrator threatens to send
those images to the Soldier’s command, family, and friends unless “ransom money” is paid, according to
Martin.

One scam is when the criminal will claim that the Soldier sent sexual images to a minor, who has now become
the alleged victim, and threaten to report the Soldier to law enforcement unless a monetary fee is paid.

“If you meet a person on a legitimate online dating site there is very little chance that you are actually
communicating with an underage person. It is therefore very unlikely that you sent or received child
pornography or provided your images/videos to a minor,” Martin said. “It is important to also keep in mind that
law enforcement, to include Army CID, will never agree not take legal action if you agree to pay [ransom]
money to the alleged victim or to the alleged victim's family.”

Army CID agents say they can help if you find yourself in this type of predicament.

“If you met someone online who later claims to be underage you should immediately cease all communications
with that person and notify Army CID,” Martin said. “If law enforcement gets involved early on there are
investigative steps that may help identify the perpetrators responsible for victimizing Army personnel.”

Another way that the criminals attempt to extort money is to claim that they are a lawyer working on behalf of
the alleged victim. The scammer will request payments are made for things such as counselling for the alleged
victim and to replace electronic devices that now contain child pornography. If these demands are not met the
person alleging to be the lawyer threatens to report the incident to law enforcement.

Martin said legitimate law firms will not contact you and ask for money in lieu of reporting you to law
enforcement and typically law enforcement will not attempt to make contact with you over the phone.

“If you are contacted via telephone, always request validating information such as an agency email address
and offer to meet in person at a law enforcement facility before proceeding with giving out your personal
information,” Martin added.

“Stop communication immediately with these individuals and do not send money because it will not stop the
criminal from demanding more money from you,” Martin said. “CCIU is aware of instances where scammers
threatened to release videos unless a second or even a third payment is made.”

Unfortunately, these incidents continue to occur across the globe, and sextortion victims are encouraged to
seek the assistance of law enforcement.

“Victims are at risk of further exploitation, that can include demands for additional payments, more sexual
images, sensitive military information, or access to U.S. Army systems and facilities, so early notification to law
enforcement is important,” CID agents emphasized.

If you have been the victim of sextortion, adhere to the following:
• DO preserve whatever information you have from the scammer(s), such as social networking profile,
email accounts used, where money was directed to be sent, etc.
• DO notify CCIU at usarmy.cciuintel@mail.mil to report being a victim if you are a service member or an
Army civilian employee. If you are not associated with the military, report the crime to your local police
department, DHS Homeland Security Investigations at Assistance.Victim@ice.dhs.gov, or the FBI’s
Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.

Victims can seek information on rights and assistance from:
• Army Victim/Witness Liaison Program - VWL will assist victim in contacting agencies or individuals
responsible for providing necessary services and relief.
• Command Chaplains.
• Family Advocacy Center/Army Community Service.
• If victims are not eligible for military services, or where military services are not available, the VWL can
provide liaison assistance in seeking any available nonmilitary services within the civilian community.

For more information about computer security, other computer-related scams and to review previous cybercrime alert notices and cyber-crime prevention flyers visit the Army CID CCIU website at http://www.cid.army.mil/cciu-advisories.html.