The organized digital crime known as "sextortion" or "webcam blackmail" has grown, according to studies, during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Sextortion is likely an under-reported crime because many victims are too embarrassed to come forward.
Sextortion, a term that combines the words "sexual" and "extortion," is the practice of encouraging victims, who are often men but can also be women, to engage in sexual activity in front of their webcam while it is being videotaped. The victim is frequently, but not always, not aware that they are being videotaped. These digital recordings and pictures are then used to blackmail people by threatening to publish the information online and send it to their friends, family, coworkers, etc. if the victim doesn't pay.
It appears that an "enticer" contacts victims out of the blue. Through social media networks that the majority of people utilize, dating apps, pornographic websites, and other means, enticers will target specific individuals. They might catfish, or pretend to be someone else (often someone young, attractive, handsome, and/or rich), and contact multiple potential victims remotely by sending bulk messages.
The sexting-style communications are intended to pull people in with their substance and presentation. The internet chat becomes flirty and sexually intriguing as soon as the recipient responds; at times, it might even resemble a relationship or friendship. It seems that trust is quickly established, and in the thrill of the moment, victims lose their inhibitions and engage in sexual behavior or transmit sexual images. The harm has been done.
Sextortion is distinct from other types of sexual crime in that there is never any offline communication between the victim and the offender, hence there is no face-to-face interaction. People frequently claim to feel like a different person as a result of which they behave differently. Online disinhibition decreases behavioral constraint, which can frequently lead to inappropriate self-disclosure, harmful behaviors like cyberbullying, and fantasy sexual behaviors that many people would not exhibit in offline, face-to-face encounters.
Men are significantly more likely than women to become victims of sextortion, but men are also typically the ones who do it. According to recent studies, men are more likely to become victims since they are frequently targeted, spend more time online, and tend to be less picky when looking for sexual partners. The higher risk of becoming a victim of sextortion for men may possibly be due to gender differences in how they create their online identities (Huang et al., 2017). There are also some racial disparities now (Eaton et al., 2022). For instance, it was discovered that Black and Native American women experienced sextortion more frequently than other ethnicities throughout the pandemic. Likewise, adolescents and LGBTQ people.
Sextortion has become more prevalent over the past few years, although despite increased reporting, it is certainly a crime that is underreported. Victims experience great humiliation. In contrast to victims of other sorts of crime, partners and the general public are not as sympathetic.
The advice for those who have been sextortion victims is fairly straightforward:
Keep the proof: Snapshots are taken. Keep notes and pictures. Gather the URLs of the websites where the information is shared online.
If communication took place through these platforms, notify the social media firms.
Inform your internet service provider of it.
Stop communicating with the individual who is pursuing you.
However, it is preferable to prevent becoming a victim in the first place. There are some straightforward guidelines that, when combined with, say, self-awareness regarding your emotions, should assist you avoid being a victim.
Avoid sharing too much information about yourself online.
Utilize all of your privacy settings on social media
On dating platforms, use nicknames
Never accept friends you don't know.
Shield your webcam.
Don't download files or click links.