Blackmail Scams & Revenge Scams October 19, 2023 23:09 Updated Picture this: You're swiping right and left, looking for that special someone to connect with, or maybe just a fun night out. Suddenly, you match with someone who seems like the epitome of your type. They're attractive, witty, and into the same obscure bands as you. But just when you think you've hit the digital dating jackpot, you find out they're a wolf in sheep's clothing—luring you into a dangerous trap known as sextortion. In the era where digital life feels almost as real as the physical one, it's crucial to unmask the grim reality of sextortion scams that are targeting sapphics on dating apps. This guide is your survival kit, aimed to help you recognize the red flags and navigate safely through the minefield of modern love. The FOMO is Real, but So Are the Dangers Quick Stats that Hit Home Before we dive into the how's and why's, let's talk numbers—because the situation is dire. According to an FBI report, sextortion-related complaints have been on the rise, with losses exceeding $13 million in 2021 alone. Disturbingly, a large chunk of these victims falls within the Gen Z age bracket. Not just a few isolated incidents, we're talking about thousands of young lives disrupted, both emotionally and financially. Sexting Culture Among Gen Z: A Double-Edged Sword We get it; digital interaction is as natural to Gen Z as breathing. You grew up with smartphones in your hands and social media accounts before you even hit your teens. And hey, there's nothing inherently wrong with that; it's the world we live in. But it also creates a culture where sexting can seem as commonplace as a goodnight text. While it might feel like an intimate extension of your online interactions, sexting has its dark sides. It's often the bait used in sextortion traps, turning something that seems fun and flirtatious into a weapon against you. The FOMO—the fear of missing out—can drive us to take risks, especially when it feels like "everyone else is doing it." But remember, once something is out there in the digital space, it's almost impossible to take back. And for every seemingly perfect match, there could be a predator lurking, ready to exploit that sense of adventure and curiosity. Anatomy of a Sextortion Scam: From Ghosting to Mosting Stage 1: The Perfect Match First impressions count, and scammers know this. They'll often create a profile that seems too good to be true because, well, it is. Using photos that look straight out of a fashion magazine or an Instagram influencer's feed, they'll construct a persona that perfectly aligns with what they think you're looking for. These digital predators have an impeccable social media game: a well-curated profile, believable backstories, and even mutual interests that make them appear legit. In the world of endless swipes, they're the one you've been waiting to match with. Stage 2: Sliding Into Your DMs Once the match is made, the next move is to take the conversation off the dating app. They might suggest transitioning to text messages, WhatsApp, or even Instagram DMs. The reason? Dating apps have started to amp up their security features and scam-detection algorithms. By moving the conversation to a more "private" platform, scammers bypass these safety measures. Here, the conversations might start to get more personal, more intimate, laying the groundwork for the next stage of their scheme. Stage 3: The Trap As you become more comfortable and the conversation progresses, things start to get steamy. What started as casual banter now turns into flirty, and then sexually suggestive, exchanges. It's at this point that the scammer might ask for explicit content—photos, videos, or even a live cam session. If you hesitate, they'll play on your fears, insecurities, or even curiosity. They might send an explicit image first to put you at ease (which is likely not even them), pushing you to reciprocate. And the moment you do, they've got you. Stage 4: The Reveal Just when you think you've built a connection, the scammer drops the act. They reveal their true intentions by threatening to release the explicit content you've shared unless you pay up or meet other demands. This is the darkest and most dangerous stage of the scam, where the stakes are high. Suddenly, you're not dealing with a potential romantic partner; you're dealing with a criminal who has significant leverage over you. Understanding the anatomy of a sextortion scam is the first step toward protecting yourself. Recognize the red flags, trust your instincts, and always think twice before sharing personal or explicit content with anyone, no matter how genuine they seem. The world of online dating is filled with exciting possibilities, but it's essential to navigate it with caution and awareness. It’s Not Just About the Money: the Emotional Toll Here are some anonymous tales from victims of sextortion after using dating apps. Example One : This person, who identifies as queer, was blackmailed after engaging in a video call. They ended up paying $600 to prevent the scammer from leaking their video. Despite paying, the scammer continued to harass them, reaching out to their social circle. The ordeal led to sleepless nights, constant anxiety, and a profound sense of shame. Source: Reddit Example Two from Bumble: This individual, also part of the LGBTQIA+ community, was coerced into sharing personal information and explicit content. The scammer located their sister on Facebook, posing a direct threat to their family. The victim experienced stress and embarrassment, affecting both their personal life and work performance. Source: Reddit The emotional toll of sextortion can range from public humiliation to severe mental health struggles, such as anxiety and depression. It's a form of emotional abuse that can deeply affect your self-esteem and trust in others, sometimes leading to devastating consequences. Tech-Savvy but Still at Risk While the digital native generation, including Gen Z, may feel invincible online, the reality is quite different. Underestimating the Scammer: Many young people think they can spot a scam from a mile away. However, scammers are getting more sophisticated, employing psychological tactics that prey on your emotions and trust. Advanced Technologies: As technology evolves, so do the methods scammers use. Deepfakes can create hyper-realistic videos, and AI can generate very convincing chat interactions. Being aware of these technologies is the first step in guarding against them. Multi-platform Vulnerabilities: You may be cautious on one platform and let your guard down on another. Scammers often piece together information from various sources, creating a fuller profile of their targets. The Illusion of Anonymity: Many believe that using different usernames or pseudonyms across platforms offers protection. However, it takes minimal effort for scammers to link these disparate pieces of information. Being tech-savvy isn't a foolproof defense against the ever-evolving tactics of online scammers. Continuous education and vigilance are essential in staying one step ahead of these cyber threats. Dodge, Duck, Dip: Avoid being scammed The Power of Verification Perform a reverse-image search on that captivating profile picture to find out if it's genuinely theirs or stolen from someone else's social media. Secure Your Fortress Maintain robust security settings across all your social media platforms and dating apps. On LGBTQIA+ specific platforms like HER, make sure to utilize any extra privacy features. Trust Your Gut If something feels off during your interactions, it probably is. Trust your instincts and proceed with caution. Don't Rush Into Intimacy Sextortion relies on rushing victims into sharing intimate photos or details. Keep a comfortable pace to continually assess the situation. Know the Legal Avenues Collect evidence like screenshots if you suspect you're being targeted. Report the user on the platform and seek legal counsel. Keep the Conversation On-Platform Keep initial conversations within the dating app until you've verified the other person's identity and intentions. Digital Literacy for LGBTQIA+ Women Stay educated on common scammer tactics and keep updated on digital safety measures that are specific to our community. Reporting matters because it's the first step in halting the cycle of sextortion and online exploitation. Not only does it help protect you by mobilizing authorities or platform support teams to act, but it also safeguards others who might fall victim to the same scam. Each report adds valuable data that can help law enforcement agencies understand the scope, tactics, and impact of these scams, contributing to larger efforts to catch and prosecute perpetrators. So, by taking the time to report, you're not just standing up for yourself—you're contributing to a safer and more secure online community for everyone. Real cases of sextortion“She really seemed like my type, so I trusted her right away. We got on a call, she has my face, and I gave her my full name. She now has "pornographic" videos of me. My instagram was connected to my facebook, and she found my sister on facebook. Issue, my sister is not on my instagram or facebook. So how did she find it? I did give her full name and town. What should I do?”Our advice? Follow our guide for reporting scammers: https://support.weareher.com/hc/en-us/articles/20183107725460-Reporting-A-Scammer Help us help othersIn a world where digital interactions are becoming the norm, especially for Gen Z, awareness and vigilance are not optional—they're essential. The blend of technology and human vulnerability creates a landscape ripe for exploitation, as seen in the growing incidents of sextortion on dating apps. Understanding the patterns of these scams and their emotional toll gives us the tools to protect ourselves and our community. But knowledge is only power when it's shared. So, hit that share button, send a DM, or bring it up in a conversation. Let's look out for each other because we're all in this digital world together. #ShareToCare Additional Resources Online Platforms for Reporting Sextortion: FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center Your Local Law Enforcement Website Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (For those under 18) Mental Health Resources: Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741 The Trevor Project: For LGBTQIA+ youth in crisis National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) Feel free to reach out for support, whether you're seeking legal action or emotional help. You're not alone, and there are resources and communities ready to assist you.