TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) --
In this day and age, hackers and scammers are finding new ways to exploit unsuspecting victims using various illegal cyber techniques.
Internet crimes like phishing, spamming, cyber terrorism, cyber bullying, online identity theft and cyber stalking have been constant concerns on the Defense Department’s agenda.
Another dangerous cyber concern is sextortion, which generally refers to using sexual images (obtained either through enticement or malicious code) in order to extort money from unsuspecting military and civilian victims.
"Sextortion, or cybersex extortion, refers to a cybercrime of using sexual images or videos in order to extort money from victims,” said Scott Mills, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations Detachment 223 commander. “Sextortion cases are on the rise worldwide and there have been reports of DOD personnel being targeted. Internet sites such as Facebook and dating sites have been used to target individuals.”
The Justice and State Departments identified online dating and romance scams as a significant concern to all U.S. citizens.
The majority of victims are young men – or in the case of the military, junior enlisted service members – who are away from home and maintain an active online footprint that includes publicly viewable profile information.
According to a previously published Air Force Office of Special Investigations report on sextortion, it is not known how many DOD personnel have been victimized by this type of scam, though in November 2012, the security team for Facebook identified a major sextortion ring operating out of the Philippines.
The ring, involving 21 employees of a Philippines-based web portal solutions company, reportedly targeted hundreds of U.S. Army and Navy members for a period of more than a year.
The numbers have grown since it was first brought to the agency’s attention.
"While there are almost certainly more Air Force victims of sextortion,” Mills said. “AFOSI has documented approximately 40 victims of sextortion in the past three years, totaling approximately $14,000 in losses."
DOD members could pose a target for online criminals because they may be perceived as more vulnerable to blackmail and extortion.
“The DOD and the Air Force have online computer-based training that focus on cybersecurity and AFOSI created a cybersecurity sextortion pamphlet to address the dangers of sextortion, how to identify sextortion and how to report it,” said Linda Card, an Air Force Office of Special Investigations spokesperson.
All DOD members should be vigilant in protecting their personal information and limit what information they divulge on social networking sites.
If you or someone you know identifies suspicious activity or is being targeted, cease all communication with the individual and contact your command and your local AFOSI detachment. You may also call the AFOSI hotline at 1-877-246-1453.
Additionally, victims of these scams can file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center
, a joint task force established between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center, at www.IC3.gov