Online Sexual Exploitation Surge
There is a surge in the number of people falling victim to Online Sexual Exploitation. Since the imposed Covid-19 lockdown and restrictions, Dating Apps such as Bumble, Hinge, Tinder, Plenty of Fish, OkCupid, Grinder have seen a significant increase in the number of users. Isolated adults and children are attempting to find connection with others. These individuals are now the target of ruthless criminals in Sextortion scams. The average ransom fee to prevent a victim's content being shared with friends and family, costs thousands.
Users of these apps are being warned, not to exchange sexually explicit content of themselves with people they don't know. Thousands all over the world, are subject to the threat of self-generated sexual content being released online, unless they pay huge sums to the exploiter. This has caused some in to take their own lives.
Hyper Personal Communication
The scam works by exploiters initially making contact through Social Media, or on popular dating apps. Once contact is made, a relationship can develop very quickly. Extortionists are essentially using what is known as Hyper-personal communication to lure their victims. This is a process of communication through digital devices. When devoid of the senses we use in the real world to make judgement about those we interact with, people become more vulnerable. Relationships develop far faster. Individuals are not as defensive or as guarded, especially if someone is actively seeking connection with other people.
Humans have an exceptional innate ability to assess the language that is exposed through body language and patterns within verbal discourse. However, without experience humans are terrible when it comes to the analysis of online message exchange interaction. This is primarily because the receiver creates the personality of the sender in their own head. Often this perceived personality is completely contrary to what this individual is actually like.
Heuristics are also an important part of this also. It's important for us to understand that Heuristics are like shortcuts the mind makes to arrive at a conclusion quickly. These thought patterns can be based on an individual's life experience up to that point. It is a mental approach to problem solving, or self-discovery that employs a method that's not guaranteed to produce the optimal result. It's not a perfect, or rational decision making process. However, it's often used to reach an immediate decision.
The Halo Effect
A process known as The Halo Effect, a cognitive bias, is also key to this scam. The Halo Effect describes how we assign positive attributes to a person based on our first impression. Regardless of whether or not they deserve those positive attributes. It's why we perceive those considered beautiful as more confident and successful. Often profiles using attractive males and females are used. Organized criminals actually hire attractive individuals to target people. It is believed that there are whole data exploitation centres in Eastern Europe, Malesia and the Philippians.
Even if you consider just these three concepts, it's possible to see how a lonely individual immediately becomes vulnerable online. If you are actively seeking connection online, this immediately makes you a potential target. When a person makes contacts and after a short time declares their interest in you, exploitation may not be the first thought that comes to mind. Positive emotions will possibly win the trade off over safety. If this person then decides that they trust you to the extent that they will share sexually explicit content with you, then your trust is completely established.
Why would you share sexually explicit content
Why would somebody share explicit content of themselves with someone they didn't know, if there was not a real connection? The answer to that is simple. You're possibly just about to become a victim of online sexual exploitation. There is serious money to be earned in these online extortion scams. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that the sexually explicit content you shared will not be posted online, even if you pay. There is some really simple and straight forward advice for adults.
DON'T SHARE SEXUALLY EXPLICIT CONTENT OF YOURSELF ONLINE !
If you have and are now receiving threat as part of the online sexual exploitation surge, please do not pay. Please report this immediately to your local law enforcement agency. Examine your online social media accounts and ensure that nobody can tag an image of you without your permission. Ensure nobody can see who you're connected to on the platforms you use. Screes grab and share all of the interaction with the exploiter. Do not engage with them any further, report and block them to the platform that you encountered them on.
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