Since the lockdown, webcam scams are on the rise again. How to avoid being tricked?
It's 7 p.m., and you’re feeling a little bored. You're surfing on a dating site or app. You're browsing purposelessly, and suddenly, you can't believe your eyes - this hottie has noticed you and they want to chat !
Charmed by your contact's good looks and clever message, you decide to answer. The discussion starts, the person actually answers - it’s obvious that it is a real person, not a bot. And suddenly, they suggest a webcam chat. Hmm, would be a nice change from all the pointless video meetings you've been doing since remote working became the norm... you accept. The discussion heats up and you end up undressing in front of the camera, or sending a few naughty pictures... this evening that was supposed to be boring is not completely lost!
You almost forget about it. Until you receive the email or the message via Facebook Messenger.
At first, it is the hacker who contacts you - threatening to make the incriminating content public if you don’t pay a hefty sum - often several thousand dollars or euros. You recognize your photos or videos. You are devastated and a bit ashamed - how could you fall for such an obvious scam?
But you've been reading this kinds of articles for ages now, so you know better. You don’t answer. These hackers run thousands of scams in parallel, and only deal with the people who respond. Hopefully, you’ll be fine. But somehow you can’t stop worrying deep down.
A few weeks later, the second message arrives. It no longer comes from some African country as it once did, but from Interpol, a local police department, or YouTube. It is well written, without typos, with all the official logos. It’s claiming that you exposed yourself to a minor, and that you will be prosecuted, unless you pay a fine right away.
You probably already know you're dealing with a scam. But to be really sure
Look carefully at the sender's address. Even if it looks official at first glance, it's not - it's probably close enough, but it differs slightly.
Sometimes it even looks the same - it's a homograph, in which a letter of the Latin alphabet has been replaced by an almost identical letter of the Greek or Cyrillic alphabet.
Hover (without clicking) over the link if the email you receive contains one: often the link that appears in the body of the message is not the real one. If you look at the syntax, you will easily see that it is neither the official YouTube link nor the link of a police department
Of course, no police department will ever contact you via email or Facebook Messenger (or ask you for money to make an accusation disappear)
Do not pay, under any circumstances
Do not try to communicate with the scammer
File a complaint (but be aware that these hackers are skilled, often in another country and that it is rare that police won't probably be able to act)
Flood the web with other information about you in order to drown the incriminating content- or hire a company to do it for you
Ask for the removal of videos and photos, but be aware that the sites are often not very receptive - a specialized company can help you.
YouTube does not allow adult videos. Your video is private and unlisted. You can ask YouTube to remove it - they should do so in 48 to 72 hours or you can hire us for an immediate removal!
Systematically check the user's profile.
Ask your contact to give you their real name and do a quick Google search.
If you have already activated the webcam, ask your interlocutor to make a specific gesture: make them touch their hair, for example. Most of the time, these scam videos are pre-recorded.
If it's too good to be true, it's probably a scam!
Well, not really.
Webcam scams exist outside dating sites and apps. You can be victim of one on Facebook (the most used) Instagram or even LinkedIn. You’re using Snapchat, you are protected? The content can be easily be saved even if it’s supposed to go away.
On social media, a friend request can lead to the same pattern - except it might last for weeks or even months !