Fraudulent exploitation can happen to anyone, and is something most are familiar with. The most common form of this is the predatory spam phone calls or emails people receive on a regular basis. Fraudulent exploitation is sometimes easy to identify, but other times can be more deceptive and much more serious.
The Salisbury University Police Department (SUPD) has noticed an increase in reports related to sextortion (the practice of extorting money or sexual favors from someone by threatening to disclose their sexual activity to others) and government impersonator scams. SUPD urges the use of caution when interacting with others online, and when receiving unsolicited phone calls or text messages.
Protecting yourself from sextortion:
As defined by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, sextortion is a serious crime that occurs when someone threatens to distribute your private and sensitive material if you don't provide them images of a sexual nature, sexual favors, or money.
Sextortion is a form of fraudulent exploitation that begins with either a male or female beginning a flirtatious conversation over a social media platform in the attempt to gain trust and access the victim’s social media or contact information. When private photos or video are shared with the scammer, they will immediately threaten to distribute private and sensitive material with the victim’s contacts if monetary demands are not met.
- NEVER send compromising images of yourself to anyone, no matter who they are or who they say they are.
- Do not open attachments from people you do not know. Links can secretly hack your electronic devices using malware to gain access to your private data, photos, and contacts, or control your web camera and microphone without your knowledge.
- Turn off your electronic devices and web cameras when not in use.
If you are receiving sextortion threats, stop all interaction with the extortionist and do not be embarrassed or afraid to contact law enforcement. You can file a complaint with the FBI/Internet Crime Complaint Center
Protecting yourself from government impersonator scams:
Be aware of “government impersonator scams,” in which a scammer will call, falsely claiming to be a law enforcement officer and indicate the victim failed to pay a fine and will be arrested. Government agents will not call, email, or text you and ask for money or personal information.
The Federal Trade Commission offers the following tips on avoiding government impersonator scams:
- Do not wire money, send cash, or use gift cards or cryptocurrency to pay someone who says they represent a government agency. Impersonators ask for money in these forms because they are difficult to track and even more difficult to retrieve stolen money from.
- Do not give financial or personal information to someone who calls, texts, or emails claiming affiliation with the government. If you think a call or message could be real, call that government agency directly at a number you know is correct.
- Do not always trust your caller ID, which may show the government agency’s real phone number or even display the name of the agency. Caller ID can be faked.
- Do not click on links in unexpected emails or text messages. Scammers send emails and text messages that look like they’re from a legitimate source but are designed to steal money and personal information. Simply delete the message.
Additional information on government impersonator scams is available on the FTC's "How To Avoid a Government Impersonator Scam | Consumer Advice" web page.