How many times have you had a friend request on social media
from a stranger? For me, it happens too often. A friend or follow request pops
up on Instagram or Facebook – I don’t recognize the name or the person in the
photo. It may be tempting to accept the friend request to find out more. But be
People are not always what – or who – they seem online. Virtually
anyone, (pardon the pun) can pretend to be anyone on the World Wide Web.
One of my favorite country singers, Brad Paisley even has a
song about being “cooler online,” living a life only one can fantasize about.
“Online I live in Malibu. I posed for Calvin Kline, I've been in GQ. I'm single
and I'm rich.”
It’s not new. Cat-phishing is more than just a popular show
on MTV. It’s a tactic used by scammers to approach someone online, start a
romantic relationship and reel them in with emotions before asking for money.
But the person on the other end isn’t who they said they were.
Most times, it’s safe to say he or she is far from it.
Boise Police Department alerted me that scammers are
targeting local college students with an alarming new twist.
Edward Fritz, crime prevention supervisor at Boise Police
Department, said there have been multiple cases reported out of Boise State
University. Males are being approached on social media by females of similar
age. They begin a conversation that quickly escalates to sending intimate
photos and videos. The person on the receiving end of these messages then
extorts the young males. They threaten to release the photos and/or videos
publicly unless the victim pays thousands of dollars.
“In one case, the video was shared on Facebook before it was
reported and taken down,” explains Fritz.
Because of the sensitivity of the scam, there may be many
more victims, but they are too embarrassed to report it.
“We don’t know how many others there are,” said Fritz.
For many, this experience can feel embarrassing and have
long-lasting consequences, but contacting law enforcement is a great first step
if you suspect you or your children or guardians are a victim.
Three tips to Spot
Be wary of social media accounts that seem to be recently created or have
little information on them. As Fritz explains, “Scammers went in, grabbed a
handful of pictures and created an account or added them to an existing
Facebook account. It looks like it’s coming from a similar-aged female as
opposed to someone outside the country.”
Moving Fast: The
conversation starts off seemingly innocently and quickly takes a turn. As Fritz
explains, “It only took five to six messages to go from complete strangers to
sending intimate photos and videos.”
Request for Photos:
If the person you’re talking to quickly asks for photos, especially ones that should
be kept private, it’s a red flag. “Once you send an intimate video or intimate
image, it could be anywhere. It’s not like it disappears. The Internet is
forever,” said Fritz.