Sextortion gangs in overdrive mode, unsuspecting users trapped on Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp
Reports of such anonymous video calls on WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are rising, which is causing a threat to people's cyber security.Author : A. Gayatri
On receiving a video call on Facebook messenger from an unknown account, a 35-year-old Delhi University professor was shocked to see a nude girl on the other side. However, before he disconnected the call, the criminals had made a quick video of the professor watching the porn clip. Soon harassment began.
Shaken from the incident, the professor described what happened that night. " I saw a nude girl on the other end. I disconnected the call immediately. However, before I could figure out what exactly happened, I received a few screenshots of my video call on Messenger."
Though he had blocked the user on messenger, he got an audio call after an hour from a man who asked him to pay 20,000 via a digital payment app within five minutes. Failing to do so, he would post his screenshots on Facebook which will be seen by his Facebook friends.
"I was nervous and deactivated my Facebook account. Nothing happened after that night to date but I'm still worried," he said.
Reports of such anonymous video calls on WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are rising, which is causing a threat to people's cyber security.
These cases are similar to that of Jamtara-type mobile frauds, cyber experts said, adding that notorious gangs of Mewat are behind the crime, who are extorting money from people by blackmailing them with such WhatsApp video callings. These gangs operate from many regions such as the Mewat region in Haryana, Bhiwadi, Tijara, Kishangarh Bas, Ramgarh, Laxmangarh in Alwar and Nagar, Pahadi and Govindgarh in Bharatpur.
Delhi CBI had in October stated that they have arrested the mastermind behind an interstate sextortion gang from Rajasthan's Bharatpur. Nasir 25, was involved in extorting money from reputed persons by blackmailing them of posting their obscene pictures and videos.
According to Alwar police, at least 36 gangs have been captured and 600 accused have been arrested in the sextortion case.
Such criminal activities have increased during the pandemic where cyber thugs run recorded porn videos and then send them to the target. After which they demand money that ranges from anywhere from Rs 10,000 to over a few lakh. If any target refuses to pay the money, the gang threatens to share the video of you watching the video in your social media circles and the mental harassment begins afterwards, explains an independent cyber security researcher Rajshekhar Rajaharia.
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A similar case happened with a Delhi-NCR based journalist on WhatsApp. Several screenshots of him watching porn were sent on her number and was later contacted by a person to pay Rs 23,000 in exchange to delete the video. The journalist blacked the number and didn’t receive any call again.
Rajaharia, says that these gangs usually don't share the videos and pictures because they too fear getting into trouble if the person goes to cyber police with their contact details. "However, the victims must quickly contact the cyber branch of police in their respective areas. When you receive an anonymous call, do not pick it immediately. Try to find out the identity of that anonymous person via SMS or WhatsApp chat first, and then check if that person belongs to your known circle of acquaintances or not," the cyber expert advised.
He further warns that the users keep their camera off or cover it while taking any anonymous WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger video call.