Community Alert – Online Blackmail Scam

The Department of Public Safety has been made aware of fraudulent online activity impacting individuals at Stanford. As a result, campus police are warning users of internet-based video chat programs (such as Skype) about an online blackmail scam.

To carry out the scam, the offender contacted the individual victims on a social networking site using an assumed identity. After establishing a relationship, the offender convinced the victims to engage in intimate acts which the victims believed were taking place in a private video chat session. Unbeknownst to the individual victims, the victim’s actions were recorded by the suspect. Later, the offender blackmailed the individual victims with the threat of releasing the recorded footage to their social media contacts unless payment was made (usually via a wire transfer). The suspect(s) did send the recorded material of at least one of the victims to others without the victim’s consent.

To avoid becoming a victim, we recommend the following:

– Refrain from video chatting (e.g. webcam) with, or sending photos or videos to, anyone whom you do not know and trust.

– Assume any private video footage or images you transmit over the internet could become public without your knowledge or consent.

– Set social media preferences to private, including your contact list.

– Make sure that your software and systems are up-to-date and that you are using up-to-date security software.
Be aware that anything you do on the internet, including video and voice calls, can be recorded.

– Be cautious about people whom you meet online. They may not be whom they claim to be.

Revealing personal details online is extremely risky. If you are a victim of any scam or fraud, please report it immediately to the Stanford University Department of Public Safety at (650) 329-2413 (24/7) or your local law enforcement agency.