With everything new that technology offers, someone figures out a way to scam people out of money – the latest being webcam dating blackmail. This involves using a webcam to record a video of someone disrobing and threatening to post it online. Definitely an upgrade over the old Nigerian 419 scam (which most of us still probably receive but automatically route to the delete folder).
Usually, it’s a young woman coming on to a man and recording him as he takes off his clothes. With the increasing prevalence of webcams, expect this one – apologies for the pun – to take off.
Here’s one person’s account in BBC News of how easily he was taken in:
She sent me a message and I was happy because normally the girls don’t take the first step,” he says.
“She said she was French, living in Lyon, but was on holiday in Ivory Coast. We then chatted for a bit on MSN and I could see a video of her. She was a very beautiful French-looking girl, very pretty.”
“She was dressed to begin with and asked whether I would be interested in going further. I asked what that meant and she said she wanted to see my body… everything.
“She put on another video and started to undress. I was completely taken in. I had no idea this was a video. I thought it was real.
But her real intentions soon became clear.
“After five minutes she sent me a message saying: ‘Have a look at this video I’ve taken of you. I am going to put it on YouTube unless you send me some money.’
“I looked at the video – you could see my face… you could see everything.
Throw in an allegation of pedophilia and suddenly, one is in a very difficult position. According to French police, there appears to be several of these attempts everyday and since it’s a very public form of blackmail, many of the instances are probably going unreported. The money requested seems to be low, anywhere from $1400 to $4000 which is paid into a Western Union account. But like scammers everywhere, they apparently come back with subsequent demands, and since your webcam moment turned out to be a video . . . well, you get the idea.
Probably the only protection one might have is the difficulty of connecting the webcam moment to one’s actual identity online; but the very fact that it’s out there would be enough to get some (many?) to acquiesce to the demand for payment.
How this impacts online dating and the evolution of personal relationships online is anyone’s guess. Once again the Web undermines the boundaries between reality and illusion or, perhaps better said, the boundaries the authentic and the inauthentic.