The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has warned the LGBTQ+ community about extortionists posing as potential romantic partners on Grindr and Feeld.
The scammers send their targets explicit photos and then ask for them to reciprocate. If they do, targets are then blackmailed into paying a ransom, usually in the form of gift cards, or risk having these photos leaked to family, friends, and employers.
And that's not all, the scammers are also looking to out people, unless they pay a ransom. According to the FTC:
"Other scammers threaten people who are “closeted” or not yet fully “out” as LGBTQ+. They may pressure you to pay up or be outed, claiming they’ll “ruin your life” by exposing explicit photos or conversations."
How to protect yourself from extortionists
- Always check who you're talking to. Do is a reverse image search of their profile photo to see what shows up. If the name doesn't match up with the face, end communications promptly, and report the account to the dating app/site.
- Be careful about sending compromising images of yourself to someone. Trust your gut. Realize that extortionists are after such photos to use them as bargaining chips.
- Never send your personal information. This includes email addresses, social media profiles, and smartphone numbers.
- Avoid opening attachments or clicking links. They may contain malware designed to hijack devices or steal your information.
- Disable your webcam and electronic devices when not in use.
- Never pay the ransom. Scammers are known for promising one thing and doing the other. Remember that if you pay them, there's no guarantee they'll keep their word.
- Report it to the FBI and FTC. Don't wait to be in deep with the scammer. Once you smell fraud, cease communications immediately and report.