An increasingly common scam attempt often targeting juveniles has been reported locally.
For years, individuals have been reminded to be aware of suspicious attempts to gain access to personal information, often through veiled threats of arrest or attempts to collect a made-up debt. Sometimes, scammers will even work to impersonate a loved one in trouble to try and extract money from unsuspecting persons.
This newest scam, however, can be doubly harmful, as it combines the threat of stealing money with the potential embarrassment of outing a person’s personal images to family and friends.
A hacker recently tried to blackmail a Bellefontaine teen into sending thousands of dollars, according to a report from officers of the Bellefontaine Police Department.
Police responded Saturday evening, Jan. 28, to a city residence and spoke with the mother of a 16-year-old boy who reported that an individual operating a female’s social media account had gained access to her son’s personal images and was threatening to send them to family and friends unless he sent $5,500.
According to a police report, the teen began interacting with an Instagram user named “Nathalie” because he reportedly thought she looked familiar. The user told the boy she was 16-years-old and lives in California.
After conversing on Instagram for a while, “Nathalie” told the boy to download Google Chats so that they could continue chatting there. After downloading the app, the teenage victim provided “Nathalie” with his email address.
Police report that shortly thereafter, the hacker gained access to the teen’s phone and hacked into his folders and other social media accounts.
“Nathali’s” email on Google chats showed up as mamadou4637 with the user name “Sexy girl.”
After gaining access to the boy’s personal accounts, “Nathalie” took explicit images and videos from a folder labeled “My Eyes Only” and said that if the money wasn’t sent, the embarrassing images would be sent to all his Instagram followers.
Officers advised the teen to delete his e-mail and social media accounts. No money was transferred, but the report is an example of attempted “sextortion.”
The FBI defines sextortion as a crime that happens online when, “when young people believe they are communicating with someone their own age who is interested in a relationship or with someone who is offering something of value.”
In a nationwide memo issued in December, the FBI reported an increase in the number of instances.
Teenagers and adults alike should never open web links from, or communicate with, any individual that they do not know personally; and they should only communicate on platforms with which they are already familiar.
Never give out personal data or other potentially compromising information to anyone online or via social media.
Any person who believes they’re a victim a scam attempt may contact local authorities as well as the FBI, (800) CALL-FBI; or report it online at tips.fbi.gov.