Thousands of young men around the world are being scammed out of their life savings through a new Skype scam.
The elaborate rouse which is hitting men across the Middle East starts with a Facebook-add from a seemingly attractive woman. After a conversation is started, the chat quickly progresses to Skype.
Using pre-recorded porn videos, the ‘woman’ coaxes the victim into masturbating along with her before asking him to reveal his face. After claiming she can hear her sister, the woman gets dressed and stops the video chat. That’s where the scam is revealed.
A few minutes later, the man is sent a link to a video. The con-artist claims if the victim does not send 5,000 euros within the next week, they will send the video to the man’s family and friends.
Samir, a young Palestinian man living abroad, recounted his experience to the BBC.
Samir says he received a message from an attractive girl living in Lebanon while his girlfriend was out of town. The conversation quickly moved from Facebook messenger to Skype – where Samir was eventually filmed masturbating to the girl, and later sent the link to the video.
He told the BBC: “I was in shock. My first thought was to send him the money immediately. But I cancel her, or him, as a Skype contact and right away I get a message on WhatsApp.”
After refusing to send the money, Samir’s video was uploaded to YouTube. Luckily, it was taken down before any of his friends or family saw it.
He admitted he would ‘throw himself from a window’ had the clip been sent to a relative.
After the video was taken down I didn’t hear from the guy again. I imagine he moved on to bigger fish. I remember when I asked why he was picking on a poor young guy like me he had said, ‘You think I don’t target rich guys in the Gulf states? Of course I do. You’re lucky I can see from your Facebook page you’re not married, or I would be asking for a lot more money.’
Reda el Mawy, a reporter for BBC Arabic, says the ‘girl’ who seduced Samir was almost certainly from Oued Zem, Morocco – a city known as the capital of the ‘sextortion’ industry.
Speaking to the BBC, one scammer, named Omar, said it’s ‘crucial’ that the victims’ genitals are visible during the scam.
This is filmed with his face on screen so the video looks credible. When we’ve got the recording we upload it to YouTube and send it to him in a private message. That’s when the threatening starts. We spend 20 minutes chatting, 20 minutes for the video, and 20 minutes threatening – threatening and negotiating. They all pay.
Omar says he earns about $500 (£400) every day from the scam, and that hundreds of other young men in Oued Zem are doing the same.