THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Even as the cops are busy tracking the culprits in the Palarivattom honeytrap case, an online sex racket operating along similar lines, with its networks spread across the globe, is gradually setting foot in the state.
Sensing the looming threat, the Interpol has already come out with a report on the same while top cyber cops have issued an alert against the ‘online honeytrap’. As per reports from abroad, anything between $500 and $15,000 is being duped from each victim. The racket, active in social networking sites, trap people by blackmailing them through ‘sub rosa’ messages and images shared on these sites.
The state Cyber Police have already warned online users to keep away from messages coming from foreigners with anonymity. It’s reported that the blackmail syndicate has its roots in the Philippines and Nigeria. “Though the issue has come to our notice, not even a single case has been registered against this foreign sex racket. Since we have got information about such activities, we have already warned the online users to be alert,” said R Suneesh Kumar, DySP, Cyber Police.
Sources said the racket has been active for nearly two years. The modus-operandi goes like this: First they lure online users to expose themselves in front of webcams or engage in lewd chats. Later, these visuals are used to blackmail them. As per the Interpol report, the procedure starts with sending message from fake profiles, created under the name of a female, along with obscene profile pictures/display pictures. “The content of the message will be an invitation to chat with them, via an e-mail id given in the message. Once the victims become friendly with the ‘female’ profile, who chat with them, the relationship would continue through the given e-mail id. This is when they are trapped. The victims are duped into engaging in private talk, exposing themselves before a webcam or performing any sexual act; and all these are recorded. Later, a huge sum of money is being asked. If the user refuses to comply, the tone changes to a warning that the video conversations would be circulated to the victim’s kith and kin,” it points out.
The racket came under the Interpol scanner in the wake of a teenager committing suicide last year in Scotland, after he was trapped by the syndicate through the skype chat. Though Interpol arrested about 60 people from the Philippines after a detailed investigation, the same type of racket is still operational in other parts of the world.
Top officials of the Kerala Cyber Police said that they would soon take steps to track the racket and collect more information. “We have provisions to get information about lawbreakers, with the help of Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) from around 36 countries. If necessary, we will collect information on these lawbreakers from abroad,” they said.