New Online Dating Scam: "Sextortion"

New Online Dating Scam: "Sextortion"

New Online Dating Scam: "Sextortion"

Justin Lavelle
January 27, 2016

The New York Times recently published a major article on the unseemly side of online dating. It looked at the experiences of a wide cross section of online daters and came back with tales from the victims of scams, a phenomenon we have covered on this blog extensively before.

Beyond scams, the article notes a new online dating scam has emerged: “sextortion.” What exactly is it and how worried should you be? Below is an outline of the threat and some basic steps on how to avoid it.

Sextortion Goes Mainstream

The “latest twist” among online dating scam artists is to convince their victims (who they have built up a high level of online intimacy with) to send compromising photos of themselves via email or text. These photos are then used as blackmail to extort money from the victims over long periods of time. Rather than a one time hit, “sextortion” scams can last for months or more as the victim avoids alerting authorities out of shame.

The article notes that, surprisingly, men are more likely than women to fall victim to this particular type of scam, but age is less of a factor. Even the AARP is fielding requests from senior citizens who fall prey to sending compromising photos of themselves over email or on a web cam. Scam survivor web sites report up to 30 new cases per day relating to “sextortion” scams.

The Same Playbook

While “sextortion” schemes are certainly a new and potentially even more costly type of online dating scam than we have noted before, it is still founded on the same set of conditions that con artists use for all romance scams. It’s the same playbook.

To avoid such a scam that could cost you money, embarrassment and even your reputation, keep in mind the following tips:

  • Only message and accept messages from matches within a reasonable distance from you. All scam artists use an inability to meet in person as the bedrock of his or her scam; there is no good reason to start a relationship with a person you know you will have a hard time meeting in person.

  • As soon as you feel comfortable, arrange to meet your potential match in person in a public place for a low-stakes first date. If you encounter continual resistance to meeting in person, treat this as a red flag and move on.

  • Confirm your match’s key information through online searches, and if you’re especially concerned, consider an online background check service. Doing so can confirm that your love interest’s name matches his or her photo, address and social media profiles.

We hope that these tips will keep you and any of your family members from falling victim to the next big online dating scam.

Disclaimer: The above is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.