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India’s New Sex Extortion Scam Targets Instagram Users

India’s New Sex Extortion Scam Targets Instagram Users

As part of a new sex extortion scam in India, blackmailers will video call you on Instagram until you pick up. If you don’t oblige, they will threaten to create a pornographic video using your deepfake – someone else’s face edited to look like it’s yours. Later, they will demand a heavy sum to not circulate the video among your friends and family. 

These phishing attacks seem to arise from the tri-junction of Haryana, U.P. and Rajasthan. Scammers normally operate from places like Bharatpur, Mathura and Mewat because of the “black spot” – the presence of multiple telecommunication towers makes tracing the exact location of a device hard. The ransom, transferred through multiple payment gateways and online wallets, is just as hard to trace. 

The Agra Cyber Police arrested three men from Mewat on July 4. The trio was allegedly involved in various forms of cybercrime. They were also accused of targeting Rohan Bhasin, a marketing professional who was another victim of the sex extortion scandal. 

Bhasin received a random Instagram follow request from a woman on July 2. After accepting her request, he noticed they had mutual friends. The account then DM’d him asking for his WhatsApp number. Upon refusing to share it, the woman video-called him multiple times. Bhasin picked up after 7-8 calls only to see a naked woman in a compromising position. 

Soon, he received messages asking for a payoff. After refusing the payment, his friends and families reached out to Bhasin regarding a scandalous video they had received. 

Deepfakes are surprisingly convincing and somewhat hard to detect. Initially created to replicate celebrities, people are now exploiting the AI-based software to harass women online, spread propaganda under the guise of a politician and produce fake revenge porn.  

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In India, blackmailers are using the software to churn out videos of people superimposed with naked bodies. They will then “delete” the video in exchange for money – a few thousand to a couple of lakhs. 

Instagram users are especially vulnerable to these scams because of the former being a photo-based application. 

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