Romance Extortion – Don’t Learn the Hard Way

Video conferencing, once the purview of the Fortune 500, has become ubiquitous thanks to the popularity of Skype and Facetime.  But with most things Internet, there are frequently unintended consequences.  Welcome the latest scam:  The Romance Extortion.

In this scam, the target is lured into participating in cyber-sex using a webcam.  The scammer records the video session and uses it to blackmail the target.  Who would fall for that?  Welcome Nebraska State Senator Bill Kintner.

Sen. Kintner began messaging with a woman who contacted him via his Facebook page.  Their interaction grew over time from casual, to explicit, to the point where the woman convinced the married senator to contact her on Skype.  While on travel, the senator used his state-issued laptop to engage in video cyber-sex.  The woman soon after threatened to release the captured video unless the senator acquiesced to her extortion demands.  Realizing he blew it, the senator decided to come clean and report his activity to state officials.  Public officials in Nebraska who misuse state property can be charged with a misdemeanor.  Sen. Kintner, perhaps due to his position, got off easy by paying a $1000 fine.

Romance scammers usually live outside the US and create fake profiles.  Sen. Kintner doesn’t have a hand in this alone.  Victims are often women over 40 who are divorced or widowed.  They are usually found on dating sites or social media. But as this story demonstrates, this can happen to just about anyone who is unaware or just isn’t using their head.

Users should be reminded, when they share a picture or video of themselves, they should assume it’s available for all to see. Whether you’re a small or large organization, if you’re a company that spends time or money building an image, nothing can tarnish that image and erase the value of those advertising dollars quicker than being associated with inappropriate Internet activity. If your employees use laptops outside of your private network, be certain that your Internet monitoring and control solution follows them on and off of your network.

Posted in Cyber Security.