Threat Actors Using Dating Apps to Target LGBTQ+ Community for Sextortion

  • Last updated June 27, 2022
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Just this week, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warned that extortion scammers are targeting the LGBTQ+ community by inappropriate use of dating apps like Feeld and Grindr.

The FTC said that these criminals are passing themselves as potential romantic partners on various LGBTQ+ dating apps. They send out explicit photos to their secured targets and then ask the other user to reciprocate.

In case they fall for it, they are blackmailed by the scammers to pay them a ransom. Typically using untraceable gift cards. The scammers exploit their consensual explicit photos by threatening to leak them to their friends, families, or even employers.

Furthermore, if someone hasn’t come out to their close ones yet, the scammers can go as far as to name the people who they’ll reach out to disclose their sexuality, if the ransom isn’t paid.

According to the consumer protection watchdog:

“Other scammers threaten people who are ‘closeted’ or not yet fully ‘out’ as LGBTQ+. They may pressure you to pay up or be outed, claiming they’ll ‘ruin your life’ by exposing explicit photos or conversations.”

Keeping the Scammers at Bay

The FTC has advised such dating app users to avoid sharing explicit photos with people they’ve just come across or if they have no idea who the person is on the other side of the window.

People who’ve been active users of LGTBQ+ dating apps should take up measures to avoid falling for traps set by scammers. For instance:

  • Thoroughly look up the profile you’re talking to – Search the person’s name to ensure there are no other profiles associated or details that don’t coincide.
  • Don’t share your personal details like phone numbers, SSN, social media handles, email address or location pins.
  • Avoid requesting scammers to delete conversations or destroy phones as there’s no guarantee they’ll go through with it.

In this way, you should be able to avoid scammers who’re targeting the LGBTQ+ community.

Online dating apps have also warned their users to keep an eye out for scammers who are intent on targeting them.

Grindr warned that “social media and dating apps are a prime target for these bad actors, as scammers seek to exploit people looking to make meaningful connections.”

Feeld also requested its users to “always be mindful when you share personal details such as your real name, phone number, address or any other personal information,” and also “never follow through any payment requests from other members [..] as these can be attempts at identity theft or financial fraud.”

Sextortion Attack Spike

Last year in September, the FBI warned that there was a massive spike in dating site scams resulting in Americans to lose over $113 million in the past 10 months alone.

Furthermore, the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received over 18,000 sextortion-related complaints which accounted for a loss of more than $13.6 million.

According to the FBI:

“Most victims report the initial contact with the fraudster is mutual and made using dating websites and apps.”

They’ve strongly advised the public that those being targeted by such bad actors should stop interacting with the suspects immediately, get in touch with law enforcement and also file a complaint with the FBI IC3 at www.ic3.gov.

The FBI also shared the following steps to safeguard yourself against these scammers:

  • Avoid sharing explicit images of self, specifically if they can be put you in a compromising position if leaked.
  • Avoid opening attachments you received from unknown people. The same goes for clicking on harmless links as they can be planted on purpose to use a malware to get access to your device without your knowledge.
  • Keep your webcam or camera off if its not in use.

As long as you keep yourself vigilant , you are in safe hands and can continue to have a good time on dating apps.

 


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