Naked web-scam victim relives ordeal

A "young man looking for some fun" thought he'd struck it lucky when an attractive woman he met on an internet chat site suggested they strip off in front of their webcams.

But his heart was pounding for very different reasons a few minutes later, when she revealed she had secretly recorded him and threatened to send links to the video to his Facebook friends.

"David" is one of a handful of New Zealanders known to have fallen victim to an organised scam, which was highlighted in a report on Monday by cyber-safety organisation Netsafe.

He agreed to share his story anonymously after being relieved to read online that he was not the only victim, and that there was no indication yet that the blackmailers had carried out their threats.

"I had been told a lot of 'R-Rated' happenings occurred on a social chat website called Chat Roulette, so I was interested to check it out," he said.

"To my luck, so I thought, a young female from Morocco was willing to chat.

"The chat began like any other. She requested to look at my Facebook account, which I thought was a bit dodgy, but I let her browse my profile."

Next, the woman suggested the pair take part in a Skype video call to "have some fun".

"Both webcams were viewable and what I could see was a young white female, pretty different from shown in her Chat Roulette picture," David said.

"However, she was already starting to undress and requested for me to do so too.

"As you could imagine, certain sexual things can occur during a webcam chat. I was most likely only two or three minutes into the conversation when all of a sudden a box appeared on my desktop showing myself and what I had been doing a minute ago."

At that stage the "girl from Morocco" sent threats explaining David had been recorded and the video would be uploaded to social network sites if he didn't pay a fee to her boss.

"My heart was pounding and it felt like the world had come to a complete stop," he said.

The scammers threatened to send links to the video to David's Facebook friends if he didn't transfer a large sum of cash to them by Western Union within two minutes.

David said he was distraught and close to transferring the money, before realising they would then only demand more. Despite 10 minutes of "abuse and threats", he held his nerve.

"I deleted my Facebook account, removed all my contacts from Skype and sat in a corner and hid," he said.

Netsafe chief executive Martin Cocker said David did the right thing not succumbing to the blackmail. "We have had a case where someone did send several hundred dollars and they received another demand two weeks later for the same amount of money," Cocker said.

"With any of these blackmail threats, once they have got you paying, there is no reason for them to stop."

Netsafe had not been aware the scammers had first been trying to get access to people's Facebook profiles.

"But that would be a logical step for a person to take, because it makes the threats more powerful," Cocker said.

Not all the commentary since Netsafe drew attention to the scams had been constructive, he believed. "Some people have jumped on the idea that the victims are idiots, which I think is unfortunate," he said.

"To me that is a bit of an old-fashioned view.

"The reality is there are quite a few people undertaking that type of behaviour every day in New Zealand and for most of them they are just having fun and it is not going bad for them.

"Granted, the people we are seeing are taking a risk, but they are not stupid."

Netsafe said New Zealanders had reported losing a total of $4.4 million to internet scams over the past 12 months, but Cocker believed that was only the tip of an iceberg.

A "conservative estimate" was that the true losses probably topped $100m, he said.

David explained his situation to his friends in case the blackmailers carried out their threat.

"I found it so hard, but thankfully they were understanding," he said.

"It took me at least a week to relax about the idea of the video being uploaded."

No money has been paid and no contact has since been made by the scammers, but David said he still constantly checked video websites to see if his name appeared.

"It had taken over my mind, but slowly I am beginning to come right again."

BusinessDay.co.nz