'' Sextortion Tips For Scammers '' : In a co-working space in New Haven, Conn, Paul Raffile, a cyber intelligence analyst, put up shades to mask his work computer screen.

It was filled with the social media profiles of sextorters sharing their spoils on TikTok. Last year, Mr. Raffle was introduced to sextortion when a friend contacted him for help with a humiliating problem.

He was stunned by how open the scammers were about their exploits, bragging about their marks [ whom they refer to as ''clients'' ] and comparing best practices on public message boards and social media accounts.

Since then, Mr. Raffile has made it the focus of his work at the Network Contagion Research Institute, an independent organization that identifies and forecasts online threats.

'' It was extremely shocking, the number of people - especially young people - being targeted by the scam on a daily basis,'' he said. '' It was insane to see just how cavalier they were being, and how public and open they were about sextortion victims.''

He learned how they typically work. First, a scammer located in, say, Ivory Coast, will create an attractive female avatar.

To find targets, he may trawl a high school football team's social media account and '' friend '' all the players ; those who accept the friend request are sent flirtatious messages.

Once the person has obtained a photo - one that shows both genitals and face, for more leverage - the scammer will use that list of people, as well as the victim's online friend list, as a weapon, threatening to send the compromising picture to teammates, coaches and teachers. 

On his screen, Mr. Raffile pulled up what amounts to a school for sextorters : 

online marketplaces on TikTok, YouTube and Scribd, a popular repository of documents, where you can browse through libraries of extortion scripts, known in the trade as '' formats. ''

These are step-by-step guides on how to blackmail, or in the shorthand of the scammers, '' BM. ''

The scripts, some of which are for sale on the site, include things like the best words and phrases to seduce a victim into heading over a picture and even instructions on how to instill the right amount of panic.

The method has become common. When a New Jersey man was duped into sending a scammer nude photos, the man immediately raced to a drugstore to follow the scammer's directions :

Load $1,000 on to as many gift cards as necessary and send the redemption codes. At the register, the store manager took one look at the gift cards and tried to stop him, the man said ; the manager had seen this before.

The man, who asked not to be named, said he was too afraid to heed the advice. He sent the money anyway.

! A PUSH FOR DIGITAL GUARDRAILS ! : Ms Rodee is haunted by the fact that her son, Riley, didn't realize he had options after he hit send.

Part of her work now, she said, is changing the long standing messaging to children / students that the internet is forever, an approach that advocates and law enforcement have also begun to take. 

LAST YEAR, the parent company of Snapchat conducted a survey of over 1,000 teenagers / students and young adults that found nearly half had been recently approached sexually through different social media by strangers.

Nearly half of those who shared explicit pictures were met with sextortion attempts.

'' The consequences of this could not be more serious,'' Mr. Prado said. '' It is ordinately affecting children, and young boys and girls in particular.''

The U.S. law enforcement agencies have gone after scammers abroad successfully a few times :

After a Michigan teenager named Jordan DeMay shot himself following the scam in 2022, two Nigerian brothers, Samuel Ogoshi, 22 and Samson Ogoshi, 20, were arrested in Lagos last summer following an F.B.I. investigation and extradited to Michigan.

In April both pleaded guilty to conspiring to exploit teenage boys - there were hundreds of other victims, according to the F.B.I. which entails a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison.

But in most cases Homeland Security's investigation begins and ends in the center in Fairfax.

While there have been some arrests made abroad, the United States has no formal extradition agreement with many of the countries where the scammers are.

Ivory Coast, which analysts at the Cyber Crime Center have located as the primary location of financial sextortion cases, has no such agreement.

'' It absolutely is a source of frustration, which is why we have switched tactics to a certain degree, and are really focusing on the prevention and education piece,'' Mr. Prado said. For victims, he said, '' It is important to note your world is not over.''

This Master Problem and Essay continues. The World Students Society thanks Sarah Maslin Nir.


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