Thursday 29 September 2022

Criminals Use Dating Website to Extort People

Without knowing, victims link to false profiles and, thus, organizations begin to threaten to obtain money

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29 September 2022 - At The Banks - BCCR

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QCOSTARICA – Criminals discovered a new way to obtain money on the Internet. Through a website of sexual encounters, they establish contact with potential victims, whose profile they analyze and then threaten in various ways and try to obtain variable amounts of money.

A single person, for example, paid ¢6 million colones, revealed the Organismo de Investigación Judicial (OIJ) this Thursday at a press conference.

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According to the institution, in March, the monthly average of complaints was between five and ten; however, in the 26 days of November, the figure rose to more than 95.

For authorities, the main thing is not to engage in the game played by the criminals and immediately file the complaint so that the investigators are in charge of handling the situation.

Johnny Chacón Arce, unit chief of the Various Crimes Section of the OIJ, assured that dating sites are only the platform used by organizations to establish contact with their victims.

In this case, it is skokka.com, where criminal groups create false profiles to deceive their victims and obtain information about them.

“The idea of ​​extortion is to generate some fear for the person to make some kind of payment, whether by bank transaction or other means.

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“It is important to mention that these dating sites are just a platform that antisocials use as a means of attracting victims,” ​​explained Chacón.

Chacón added that threats are channeled in various ways, one of them is sharing videos in which they indicate that they have located the victim and his family, so that, if they do not pay, they will harm them.

Another strategy is to share photos of dismembered people, images of large caliber firearms or audios in which they claim to be part of criminal organizations.

The OIJ stated that the economic impact is considerable, so the main recommendation in these cases is to avoid using these platforms and, in case of becoming a victim, to file a complaint.

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The offended do not have an established profile; however, they are men of various ages, from minors to older adults.

“The amounts of the first extortion vary according to the profile of the victim, the majority go from ¢300,000 to ¢600,000 and I say the first time because when the victims make the first payment, the criminals see the vulnerability and continue asking for money with threats,” said Chacón.

Ignoring the threats may be an option for some, unless the threat goes from merely receiving general messages to more specific. Another option is a change of phone number.

So far, according to the OIJ, no threat has materialized, according to data from investigators.

Criminal groups

The OIJ chief said that since they began to receive complaints, they have detected at least four links with criminal groups, but stressed that all have the same way of operating, which is based on the vulnerability of the victim.

He specified that the data that criminals collect are given by the victim when establishing contact with the fake profiles.

“When you enter the page, there are a lot of profiles. When selecting one, you enter a profile, where the option to contact by WhatsApp or phone call,” explained Chacón.

The OIJ considers that the pandemic caused an increase in complaints, because health restrictions affected the use of these dating sites.

From January 1 to November 25, 207 complaints were registered throughout the country, 133 of them in San José, 28 in Heredia, 27 in Alajuela, nine in Cartago, seven in Limón, two in Puntarenas and one in Guanacaste.

Chacón added that there is no way of knowing where the information provided in those sites go and how it will be used and cannot be recovered.

According to the OIJ figures, the majority of the victims are between 18 and 39. Up to November 15, the date shows 2 of the victims were between 12 and 17 years of age, 86 between 18 and 29, 69 between 30 and 39, 33 between 40 and 40, 12 between 50 and 64 and 2 over 65 to 99.

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