The government is warning Americans about the rise of AI “sextortion” sweeping the country — and the attack has caused at least 20 suicides in recent years.
Sextortion occurs when an offender convinces the victim to send images of sexually explicit videos, then threatens them – and the criminal threatens to make them public if they don’t receive more content or money.
However, these attacks are combined with AI, giving offenders tools to create attractive personas and generate compelling conversations.
These attacks have increased by 1,000% in the past 18 months, according to the Network Contagion Research Institute, carried out by West African gangs who target young people on Instagram, Snapchat and Wizz.
DailyMail.com spoke to a former police officer who shared warning signs of the attack, such as certain details in social media profiles and the type of language used.
These attacks have increased by 1,000 percent in the past 18 months, according to the Network Contagion Research Institute, carried out by West African gangs who target young people on Instagram, Snapchat and Wizz.
Adam Pilton, who previously led a cybercrime team, said: “I have seen and investigated many cases of sextortion. Victims are often devastated by what happened and very embarrassed.
“Sometimes, the sexual videos that victims shared with the suspect were disseminated to the victim’s employer, co-workers, friends and family to increase pressure on the victim to pay their demands ransom.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) recently issued a warning after discovering an increase in attacks since October 2022.
“Sextortion can start on any site, app, messaging platform or game where people meet and communicate. In some cases, the criminal’s first contact will pose a threat,” the agency explained.
“The person may claim to already have a revealing photo or video of a child that will be shared if the victim does not send additional photos.”
“However, more often than not, this crime begins when young people believe they are communicating with someone their age who is interested in a relationship or with someone who is offering something of value.”
Former police officer Adam Pilton, cybersecurity consultant at CyberSmart
Warning signs that you are dealing with a sextortionist
Pilton said the first warning sign is if you receive a friend request on social media from a stranger of the opposite sex — and one who is attractive.
Although it can happen very occasionally in real life, it’s a classic sign of sextortion, Pilton said, and users should immediately be on guard.
There are also often obvious “warning signs” about a sextortionist’s profile, Pilton said.
“The stranger’s social media profile often has friends you wouldn’t expect them to have, for example a young woman who has a lot of older male friends,” he said. -he continued.
“The stranger’s social media profile will often have limited personalized activity. For example, there will be no photos of the stranger socializing with other people identified in that photo.
“The other key warning sign is that the stranger is eager to build a relationship quickly.”
How to spot sextortionists using AI
Attackers can use AI to generate their profile photos and use chatbot software to generate compelling conversations, Pilton warned.
The main warning signs are inconsistency in the details of photographs: if attackers use AI to generate images, the person’s appearance may change or the settings may vary from one image to another.
Users should be wary of extremely quick responses and responses that don’t seem to take into account what you’ve said.
Inconsistent use of language (for example, switching from affectionate language to formal language) is another warning sign, Pilton said.
What sextortionists say
If you’re contacted through a social media platform, a classic “red flag” is that the person immediately wants to move to another platform such as WhatsApp, Pilton explained.
“This allows attackers to escape the tools used by platforms to detect cybercriminals,” continues the former police officer.
Victims are urged not to delete any communications, even if they are embarrassing. The exchanges could be used to track down offenders and prevent others from being exploited.
“Conversations will quickly turn sexual and attackers will ask for photos from the start of the conversation.
“Other warning signs are that the stranger wants to keep their contact secret or that the situation may be unbelievable or that you feel uncomfortable.”
What to do if you are targeted
Your first step should be to report the offender to the platform you’re using and to law enforcement, Pilton said while noting that victims should block further contact.
“Make sure your privacy settings on all platforms are turned on and that you’re not sharing too much information,” he continued.
“Don’t get involved any further. Pay no ransom – The stranger will likely come back and demand more.
“Asking for help, talking to a family member or friend is often a good start. The longer you think about it, the harder it can become to talk about it.
“However, it is very important to emphasize that with the rapid increase in sextortion attempts we are seeing, we need to talk about it.
“Family members, friends and even schools should all notify those most vulnerable to this attack.”
The FBI said: “If young people are being exploited, they are victims of a crime and must report it. Contact your local FBI office, call 1-800-CALL-FBI or report it online at tips.fbi.gov.
The agency also urged victims not to delete any communications, even if they are embarrassing.
The exchanges could be used to track down offenders and prevent others from being exploited.