AWARE of the possibility that young students may end up victims of ‘sextortion’ and other sex fiends in the country with the opening of regular classes this month, Cybercops from the Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP-ACG) have stepped up their campaign against these syndicates and other individuals preying on both young and the old, PNP-ACG director, Brigadier General Dennis P. Agustin told the Journal.
The PNP-ACG has been hot on the trail of ‘sextortion’ rings in the country that record the sex act of their victims and later threaten to send the video to their targets’ families if their extortion demand is unheeded.
The PNP-ACG in the past have partnered with their foreign counterparts to smash ‘sextortion’ rings in the country being financed by some rogue foreigners and victimizing Asians, Europeans and North Americans.
In July 2013, a 17-year old Scottish named Daniel Perry took his own life after falling victim to a ‘sextortion’ ring in the country which lured him into webcam chats and then blackmailed him with the footage showing him in some uncompromising situation.
Dozens of victims of similar scams have also surfaced to file complaints before the PNP-ACG. Scores of suspects have been arrested and jailed in connection with the scam.
Agustin, a member of Philippine Military Academy ‘Maringal’ Class of 1988, particularly called on students to be wary of the so-called ‘Modeling Scam’ where syndicates target college students by messaging them on Social media, claiming that they need models for their brochures and print ads.
“They will message you saying that you have a potential to be a model. The crook creates fake IDs to make it look like he/she is coming from a legitimate modeling company or sometimes create a fake social media account pretending to be one of the known personalities in the fashion world,” he explained.
Once the glib-tongued suspect has gotten the confidence of his target, he then will ask his target to have a daring photo shoot—showing her in the nude or provocative scenes— in exchange for a high talent fee and exposure. Once the target agrees to it, her lewd photos will be used by the suspect to blackmail her into sending her money with the threat he will upload the pictures in Facebook once his demand is not met.
The PNP-ACG has offered the following tips to students: Never transact with person that you do not know. Do not ever give private photo’s or video to anyone. Always double-check the legitimacy of the company by calling or visiting it personally. Always check whether an offer is genuine, even those passed on from people you know. Contact the relevant agency using contact details you get from official website or independent online search.
Since 2015, PNP-ACG ‘Cybercops’ have smashed a number of cyber-extortionists in the country. They include a global ‘sextortion’ ring’ based in Olongapo City which was busted by the PNP-ACG then headed by Chief Superintendent, now Major General Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar who is now the director of the National Capital Region Police Office following a raid which resulted in the arrest of 28 suspects.
The 28 suspects were found engaged in the business of ‘selling pornographic materials’ or pornographic website links to their clients abroad and later duping them into exposing themselves in front of webcams..
The arrests were made by the PNP-ACG as the unit tries to erase the negative image of the Philippines as a current hub of ‘sextortion’ syndicates operating in Southeast Asia.
The PNP-ACG also previously raised an alarm over the presence of foreign and domestic cybercrime operators involved in cyber pornography, cybersex den, illegal gambling, and credit card fraud and identity theft in the country.
PNP-ACG officials said there is also the emergence of groups involved in so-called ‘sextortion in which suspects act in a group to create fake Facebook or Skype accounts and lures Westerners, Asians and other Filipinos to engage in online sex.
Investigations showed that these ‘sextortion’ syndicates would secretly record the victims after tricking them into exposing their bodies or having cybersex, and later threaten to send the video to their relatives and friends unless they paid, usually from $500 to $2,000.
Here, PNP-ACG and other police operatives have arrested some individuals for threatening to upload videos or photos of their targets while they are naked or engaged in sexual acts unless they come across their monetary demands.
Some suspects were arrested for secretly filming their sexual trysts with their girlfriends or that of their classmates and using those videos to blackmail their targets, either for money or sex while threatening to upload their sex video in Facebook.