Scam Alert: Social Media Ransom Attacks

Date published: 16 August 2022 10:45
Dated: 16 August 2022 11:40:48

We are advising residents of South Yorkshire to be wary of online scams and how to stay safe online after a recent rise in reports where individuals have been targeted via social media platforms.

In the scam, it is believed that offenders have created fake accounts with the intention of using it to persuade individuals to send over explicit images that unknowing to them at the time, will be held at ransom in order to obtain money from the victims.

Reports suggest that offenders are targeting people at random. First, befriending people who are not known to them and then once the connection has been made, the offender will send images and videos of an explicit nature and asks the victim to do the same.

Unfortunately, once the offender has obtained this material from the victim it has been used to blackmail the victim for monetary gain.

In the incidents that have been reported to us so far, the offender has threatened the victim by taking screenshots of the victim’s friends on social media and stated that the victim needs to send money to a bank account otherwise they will leak the explicit image and videos to their contacts.

Cyber Protect Officer Natalie Garrett from our Digital Investigation’s team said: “We understand that people may be left feeling humiliated and afraid as a result of these incidents, however we encourage anyone who may have fallen victim to report this to us, so that we can investigate it and support you.

“These offenders will not stop once you have sent the money over – they will keep demanding more and more money from you. Ultimately, by making the payments it doesn’t mean the images or videos will disappear.

“We urge you not to make any ransom payments and instead report this to us so that we can help. There is no judgement here – we simply want to avoid any further people falling victim to these relentless offenders and ensure that you are supported in the right way.”

These incidents bring to the forefront the ever-growing need to protect yourself online when using social media platforms. Here are some of ways you can protect yourself whilst using social media:

  • Do not befriend or accept connect requests from people that you do not know – not everyone online is who they say they are.
  • Take the time to check over your contacts/friends/followers list and delete any people that you do not know.
  • Check your social media security settings – there are different settings that restrict who can see your information and posts on social media. We recommend that your account is set to private as this allows more control over your account and posts.
  • Be wary over what information you share online – this information may not always be used for what it was intended for. Once something is online, it remains there forever.

If you have fallen victim to this scam, you should report this to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud and cyber-crime reporting centre, by calling 0300 123 2040 or online at https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/

The incident can also be reported to your local police force using 101 or online. Our online portal can be accessed here: https://www.southyorkshire.police.uk/contact-us/report-something/

The below links provide some handy guidance on how to keep yourself and others safe on social media:

https://www.getsafeonline.org/social-networking/

https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/guidance/social-media-how-to-use-it-safely

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