DailyPost 1855

It’s not as recent and not as bizarre a mode of crime as it seems to be at the first instance. It has been a part of the criminal’s toolkit for quite some time. Might be because of this, we have camera shutters in the latest laptops. In Feb 2010, Anthony Stanci of Wisconsin, then 18 years of age, was awarded a 15 year prison sentence. He used to pose as a girl on Facebook to trick male high school classmates into sending nude cell phone photos. He used to later use these photos to extort them to homosexual sex. In 2013, Daniel Parry committed suicide after falling to webcam blackmail. As expected because of the ease of technology and people getting committed to virtual world, more than real life and not being in mood or having no mode for validation of personal identities instantaneously, falling prey to sextortion is growing by leaps and bounds.

With social media becoming so to say 24/7 life partner and digital immersion age finally drowning everything during COVID-19 and post COVID-19 as we reach there, sextortion is heading to become a social malaise, which would not be easy to tackle. A recent catch of a gang in Ghaziabad would give a fair idea of the organized nature of this trade, as it stands today. The gang allegedly extorted businessmen and senior executives after blackmailing them, with images and videos of sex chats. It had extorted approximately 200 persons in two years with a total booty of Rs. 22 Crores. This is the organized nature of this crime and it keeps consolidating as the time goes by, until and unless some effort is made to curb it. Imagine situations of international gangs operating, then catching them becomes next to impossible. Their operations are next to impossible to make out.

This case came to light because of the very unusual nature of money transfer. A chartered accountant in a Rajkot firm siphoned off Rs. 80 lakhs from the company account. Investigation revealed he had used the money to pay a gang that had targeted him with images of sex video chats. The deposited account being from Ghaziabad, brought the Surat cops there. That gang had perfected the modus operandi. ”The couple – Yogesh Gautum and his wife Sapna – that ran the gang had taken a flat on rent in the officer city. They had hired three young women for a monthly salary and commission.” But for the freaky siphoning off from the company account, this case would have never come to light. What does one extrapolate from this case; is this just the tip of the iceberg?

The menace worldwide can be gauged from the fact that a video highlighting its dangers has been released by the National Crime Agency of the UK. A similar effort is being made by FBI of the US. It is to educate the vast gullible masses, especially given the fact, that sex related black leads to humiliation. Sometimes it might push the victim to take his own life. Even otherwise, the risk of sextortion needs to be made known to people, so that they aren’t  exploited. Sextortion has a long history, starting from abuse of power for sexual exploitation to the present stage; going through the stages of threatening release of the sexual images or information to sexting to webcam blackmail, webcam trolling to the current nasty and organized crime, as seen in the recent case.


Sanjay Sahay

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