Don't fall victim to online 'sextortion' scams

  • Published
  • By by Airman Ty-Rico Lea
  • Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Public Affairs
Internet crimes such as phishing, spamming, cyber terrorism, cyber bullying, online identity theft and cyber stalking have been constant concerns on the DoD's agenda.

Another such concern is cyber sextortion.

Cyber sextortion generally refers to using sexual images (obtained either through enticement or malicious code) in order to extort money from unsuspecting military and civilian victims.

"Extortion is treated as a felony-level offense and therefore is considered to be classified as criminal activity," said Ms. Linda Card, Air Force Office of Special Investigations public affairs.

According to a newly published OSI report on sextortion, it is not known how many DoD personnel have been victimized by this type of scam, though in November 2012, the security team for Facebook identified a major sextortion ring operating out of the Philippines.

The ring, involving 21 employees of a Philippines-based web portal solutions company, reportedly targeted hundreds of U.S. Army and Navy members for a period of more than a year.

Less-dramatic examples of cyber criminals targeting DoD members through these types of scams have been observed by all military criminal investigative organizations.

"Cyber criminals involved in sextortion scams generally pose as attractive females seeking friendly conversation," Card said. "They approach potential victims in chat rooms, popular dating websites, and social networking sites by initiating written and text communication in an attempt to befriend them.

"Reports across military services indicate that DoD personnel have been subjected mainly to webcam sextortion scams," Card said. "It is currently unclear whether perpetrators are specifically targeting U.S. military members or whether personnel are merely victims of a scam directed at the general public."

All military criminal investigative organizations are involved in cybersex extortion investigations, Card said.

Although it is currently difficult to ascertain the profile and origins of the perpetrators involved in these scams, many of them appear to be connected to the Philippines.
The Department of Justice and the Department of State identified online dating and romance scams as a significant concern to all U.S. citizens.

DoD members could pose a target for online criminals because they may be perceived as more vulnerable to blackmail and extortion.

The expectation to maintain a professional appearance, coupled with the strict requirements associated with maintaining a security clearance, could make DoD members valuable targets.

While cyber criminals will continue to plague social networking websites and look for unsuspecting victims, there are measures that can be taken to avoid becoming a victim of these types of scams.

All DoD members should be vigilant in protecting their personal information and limit what information they divulge on social networking sites.

If individuals believe they may have fallen victim to this type of scam, they should immediately report it to their local OSI detachment. To find your nearest OSI unit, call (877) 246-1453.

Additionally, victims of these scams can file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center, a joint task force established between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center, at

"As long as porn sites and social media provide opportunity and capability to extort money from people, there will continue to be many opportunities for cyber sextortion predators," Card said.