Members of the UC Berkeley community have been victims of photo and privacy extortion scams, according to a UCPD Nixle alert issued Tuesday morning.
In one type of scam, the suspect uses dating websites or messaging apps to identify and gather information about potential victims, the alert said. The suspect would then initiate conversation and request sexually explicit photos or videos. After receiving these images, the suspect would then demand money from the victim by threatening to send the images to the victim’s contacts.
In a similar but separate scam, the suspect would email the victim and claim to have captured images of the victim while they were accessing a pornographic website, according to the alert. They would threaten to release the images if the victim does not pay.
UCPD advises members of the community to keep social media contact lists and personal information as private as possible in order to avoid these scams. They do not recommend making payments, as the suspect will likely continue to make threats and demand money, according to UCPD.
“(E)nd the communication and block or restrict the suspect’s access to your social media accounts to whatever degree this is possible,” the alert said. “Preserve any information about the suspect that you might have (messages, identifying information, images) in case you decide to file a police report.”