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A handful of New Zealanders have been blackmailed over the past few months after taking part in "naked video chat sessions" with overseas fraudsters, says cyber-safety organization net safe.
Chief executive Martin Cocker said the scams, which were entirely for financial gain, were a new phenomenon that had sprung up over the past three months.
The fraudsters, some of whom appeared to be based in the Philippines and Morocco, recorded the webcam sessions and then threatened to upload them to YouTube and other social media websites.
Some of the victims had paid up to $600, but the blackmailers then just made demands for more money, Cocker said.
His advice for people in such a situation was that it was not a good idea to pay. "Unfortunately, you have got to front-foot the potential damage, and you can imagine for people who are in relationships or sensitive roles that is a very difficult thing to undertake."
Cocker said he was not aware of any of the fraudsters seeing through their threats to upload any of the videos to the internet, to date.
Some of the webcam blackmails had been notified to Nescafé after the involvement of the police, but Cocker said it was difficult for authorities to take any action. "People are embarrassed to report it, but they get into a position where they are in real personal difficulty and they are looking for any possible remedy or help, and that can lead them to call net safe to get advice."
The incidents were among a total of 562 online frauds reported to Nescafe’s website, theOrb.org.nz, over the year to last Friday that cost New Zealanders a total of $4.4 million. "Blackmail is the growth theme," Cocker said. "Ransom ware", where a security hole in a computer allowed cyber criminals to lock an internet user out of their machine - on the pretext of viewing pornography - and demand payment, had been "a common scourge" for both home and small business internet users this year, net safe said.
It has long argued that reported frauds are only the tip of an iceberg. Cocker speculated total annual losses to internet fraud probably lay somewhere between $100m and $400m.