WesCom News Service

Law enforcement in south Oregon is urging social media users to be aware of a scam that has apparently infiltrated Curry County through Facebook.

According to Curry County Sheriff John Ward, a 17-year-old male told law enforcement Monday he’d become a victim of the scam and was being blackmailed through the Internet.

A sheriff’s deputy learned a scammer will “friend request” another person via Facebook; typically the profile indicates the two have one mutual friend.

The scammer will send a short message that leads to sexual conversations, then send a video to the victim in which the scammer is naked and requests the viewer to do the same. If the victim complies, the scammer records the sexual acts, then threatens to publish the video or photos to the victim’s friends and family members the scammer obtained via the victim’s Facebook profile.

The scammer will then offer a settlement of money in exchange for the video or photos to be deleted — most cases are between $1,000 and $5,000.

“In this particular case, it appears that this scam originated from out of the country, and the scammer used a fake profile that shows they were from Albany,” Ward said.

Scammers usually use the name of someone the victim has already “friended” on Facebook, and submit a “friend request.” Accepting a friend request allows two people to talk with one another and share information.

People who accept the request, perhaps thinking they haven’t done so, usually receive a “personal message” from the scammer asking innocuous questions — but giving them enough time to download vital identifying information from which they can create a fake profile they then go on to use to solicit everything from money to sex.

Facebook users are encouraged to check their “friends” list prior to accepting any request to ensure that they haven’t accepted the request in the past. If a true friend is already on the list, then it is likely the friend request is being run by a scammer. Social media users are then urged to announce on Facebook that they have been hacked and then change all their passwords.

The local man reported he was contacted through social media by a person identifying themselves through a fake profile and was now being blackmailed for explicit video or photos he had sent to the scammer.

Further research revealed in many cases when the victim sends money, the scammer continues to threaten the victim for more, Ward said.

In many cases, a fake profile is created by the scammer using the victim’s name and profile picture and the scammer “friend requests” members of the victim’s family and friends and shares the explicit video and photos.

The scammer also uploads the video via YouTube and continues to harass the victim with the video or photos for weeks, Ward said.

The Curry County Sheriff’s Office is urging everyone to be aware of this scam and not to fall prey to them. Anyone who is, or has been, a victim of such harassment should contact their local law enforcement agency.