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Scam Warning: New Sextortion Scam Making Its Rounds On Social Media, Preying On Teens

BBB Serving Eastern Michigan is warning against a new sextortion scam making its rounds on social media, preying on Michigan teens. BBB first heard of this scam in a news article where a seventeen-year-old from Marquette, MI, committed suicide after being the victim of the scam, which has now made its way to the lower peninsula.

How does the scam work?

A teen receives a friend request from an attractive stranger on social media. They appear to be similar in age and have similar interests, so the teen accepts the request. What is really happening is the scammer has first researched the teen by looking at their social media accounts and finding their interests, they then create a fake profile for another teen with similar interests. Once the victim friends the scammer, they create a relationship, eventually sending a nude photo of the fictitious teenager, asking for one in return. Once the scammer receives the nude photo, they then blackmail the victim, threatening to share the photo with friends and family if they don’t pay. Once the victim pays, they ask for more money and the harassment continues.

According to the Daily Press, in the case of the Marquette teen, the scammers released the photos, once he stopped responding.

“This is a very scary social media scam that is affecting our youth,” said Melanie Duquesnel, BBB president and CEO. “Once the photo has been sent, it’s impossible to get back. These scammers are very savvy and use your interests against you to create a fictitious person you can connect with. That’s why it’s so important to prevent scammers from finding as much information about you as possible.”

BBB Serving Eastern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula has the following tips to help protect you from social media scams.

  • Too hot to be true. Scammers offer up good-looking photos and tales of financial success. Be honest with yourself about who would be genuinely interested. If they seem “too perfect,” your alarm bells should ring.
  • Don’t friend people you’ve never met. It is easy to want to accept every friend request that you receive on social media, but scammers will often use social media to gain access to your personal information. Regardless of what a person’s social media says, if you have mutual friends, went to the same school, etc. don’t friend someone you have not met in person. 
  • Share with care. Posts on social media last a long time. Consider who will see the post, how it might be perceived by readers, and what information it might reveal about the individual posting it.
  • Manage privacy settings. Check the privacy and security settings on web services and apps and set them to your comfort level for information sharing. Each device, application or browser used will have different features to limit how and with whom you share information.
  • Implement two-factor authentication on accounts and devices. This adds another layer of security to your logins. Two-factor authentication sends a code to your phone or email to check the account owner is the one logging in.
  • Consider a password manager. A written list works, but if you’re worried about losing it, type up an electronic list and label it as something other than “PASSWORDS.” Keep the list updated and organized as well as secretive. Avoid keeping the list on the device, as it will only make it easier for the thief to access the apps and personal data stored on it.
  • Still not convinced? Consider a reputable password manager to store your information. These easy-to-access apps store all your password information and security question answers, in case you ever forget. However, don’t forget to use a strong password to secure the information within your password manager.
  • Personal info is like money: Value it. Protect it. Personal information, such as purchase history, IP address, or location, has tremendous value to businesses – just like money. Make informed decisions about whether or not to share data with certain businesses by considering the amount of personal information they are asking for and weighing it against the benefits you may receive in return.
  • Look closely at the content. Scammers and spreaders of false information often fill their feeds with stock images, memes or other recycled images that are not original. Scroll through and see how far back their posts go, if it is only a couple of days, that’s a huge red flag.  They may use profile pictures that are not of an actual person, or simply an avatar. Be wary of accounts with no original images. Posts that contain no written content at all, or written content with many spelling or grammatical errors, could be signs of a fake account as well.

Regardless of whether your social media is private, there are other ways scammers can gain access to your personal information. They can send you phishing links that, when you click on them, it downloads malware to your device, giving them access to anything on it, which is what has happened to other victims. If it’s not something you want falling into the wrong hands, be wary about storing it on your device.

For more tips on how to secure your social media and protect yourself from scams, visit bbb.org