Don’t become a victim of sexual extortion (sextortion)

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Special Agents from the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, also known as Army CID, are once again cautioning the Army community about internet based “sextortion” scams.  According to military officials there are more than 450 known cases of military members who have fallen victim to this scam under which these victims were blackmailed for more than $560,000 dollars.  It is highly important that you understand this scam so that you do not become the next victim.

Sexual extortion, or “sextortion” is a cybercrime where an unwitting victim is approached in casual conversations via social media platforms and then seduced into online sexual activities.  After participating in sexual requests, the criminal then threatens to publicly expose the victim if the victim does not pay money to the extortionist.  It is particularly luring for these criminals to target military members; the extortionist threatens to send a compromising video or picture to the Servicemembers commander or chain of command.  These victimized Servicemembers pay out of fear of exposure and embarrassment.

There are several versions of this scam.  Sometimes the extortionist will pose as a law enforcement official or even a parent of someone who claims to be underage.  According to Army CID Command, the scammer requests payments for things such as counseling for an alleged victim or to replace electronic devices that contain alleged child pornography.  If the demands are not met, the scammer threatens to report the incident to law enforcement or a Servicemembers chain of command.  The requests for payments usually do not stop at one payment.

In an article published by USA CID Command in March 2019, Army CID warns that a legitimate organization will not contact you and threaten to report you if you do not pay them money.  Army CID encourages you to do the following if you have become a victim of sextortion:

• Preserve whatever information you have from the scammer, such as social networking profile, email accounts used, where money was directed to be sent, etc.

• Notify CCIU at usarmy.cciuintel@mail.mil to report being a victim if you are a Servicemember 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.

The sextortion scam is a growing problem for the military community.  It is underreported.  To avoid becoming a victim of sextortion, take the following precautions issued by Army CID Command:

  • Refrain from engaging in sexually explicit activities online, such as posting or exchanging compromising photos/videos.
  • Adjust social media privacy settings and accounts to limit information available to unknown persons.
  • Exercise caution when accepting “friend” requests or communicating with unknown persons online.
  • Avoid advertising or discussing U.S. military and/or U.S. government affiliations.
  • Turn off electronic devices and cover webcams when not in use.
  • Safeguard your personal banking and credit card information from unknown recipients.
  • Update antivirus software and avoid downloading apps, files, or email attachments from unverified sources.
  • Trust your instincts – perpetrators are highly sophisticated and are able to trick their victims into a false sense of security. If you have suspicions about the person you are communicating with, cease contact with them.

For a complete US Army CID brochure on sextortion: https://www.cid.army.mil/assets/docs/2can/JointServiceSextortionBrochure.pdf

If you are threatened by a scammer under any circumstances, DO NOT PAY!  Seek legal advice immediately if you are unsure about the matter or are too afraid to report to law enforcement.  Walk in or call the Legal Assistance Office for an appointment at (760) 380-5321.  Hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Thursdays 1-4 p.m.  The Fort Irwin Legal Assistance Office is located at Bldg. 230 on the corner of C Avenue and Third Street.