When an attractive women asked comedian Joel Dommett to join her in an intimate Skype video chat, Dommett thought it was his lucky day.
Of course, when something seems too good to be true it often is.
But that didn’t stop Dommett from engaging in what is commonly referred to as “Skype sex” with the woman he had just met online. His Skype partner, however, had a very different idea of where their relationship was headed.
The woman — or man for all Dommett knows — recorded the entire Skype encounter and then attempted to blackmail Dommett by threatening to release the video to the media if he did not pay a ransom to have it deleted, according to a report from Upworthy.
It’s a common scam that all too many victims fall prey to, making it a lucrative business for those perpetrating Skype sex scams, according to a report from the New York Times.
— Notts Police Fraud (@NottsFraudCops) December 5, 2016
These scams fall under the label of what an FBI special agent labeled “sextortion.”
“Sextortion is a serious crime that occurs when someone threatens to distribute your private and sensitive material if you don’t provide them images of a sexual nature, sexual favors, or money,” the agent says in a video released by the FBI.
To carry out the sextortion scam, the perpetrators often set up fake accounts on Facebook, Skype, dating websites, or other social media with profile pics of attractive men or women. They then scour social media for potential victims they can contact and lure into having a lurid webcam encounter, either via Skype or the Facebook video chat option. Sometimes a photo will suffice.
The holiday season is particularly ripe for sextortion scammers.
“Dating websites and apps typically see a surge in activity this time of year as people who felt lonely over the holidays try to follow through on New Year’s resolutions to find someone special with whom to share their life, or maybe just someone agreeable to share their bed on a cold winter’s night,” Kate Murphy writes for the Times. “But whether they’re looking for sexcapades or long walks on the beach, the desire for companionship and connection makes people vulnerable to a most 21st-century crime: the online romance scam, which bilked victims of all ages and orientations out of more than $200 million last year, according to the F.B.I.”
— Internet Safety Org (@MyDigitalSafety) December 14, 2016
Although Joel Dommett fell victim to one of these sextortion scams, he decided to turn his experience into a learning lesson, and perhaps a bit of a publicity stunt to help bolster his burgeoning career as a comedian.
Dommett wrote a Facebook post explaining his situation — from the perspective of his penis.
There is arguably some NSFW material in the post, so we’ll leave most it to your imagination (or you can read it here), but the gist of it is that taking advantage of someone at one of their most vulnerable and intimate moments, well, kinda makes you a jerk.
“It’s a genuinely horrific thing for another human being to do, to take advantage of what is private of someones life and make it public for everyone to see,” Dommett writes in the post.
Dommett also provides the link to Samaritans, a U.K.-based organization that offers support and counseling for anyone who needs someone to talk to about anything.
“Talk to us any time you like, in your own way, and off the record – about whatever’s getting to you,” Samaritan’s “About Us” page reads. “You don’t have to be suicidal.”
ScamSurvivors is another organization that offers advice and support for those who’ve fallen victim to Skype sextortion.
“We’re seeing a lot of these sextortion cases lately,” Wayne May, an administrator with ScamSurvivors, told Murphy. “We get about 30 requests for help a day.”
Some of the most common sextortion targets are young men who are more likely to send personal pics to accounts they think belong to young women or men who are interested in sex with them. But there is no age limit on the Skype sex scam. Murphy notes that the AARP has been “fielding similarly cringe-worthy distress calls from seniors who exposed themselves in front of a webcam.”
Murphy adds that Match.com, OkCupid, eHarmony, Grindr, and Tinder are common places for sextortion scammers to troll for victims they can convince to hop over to Facebook or Skype for a video sex chat.
Always be very, very skeptical of anyone you just met asking for any potentially compromising videos or images. If you have been a victim of a Skype sex sextortion scam, contact your local law enforcement or one of the organizations cited above for help and guidance.
[Featured Image by Mario Tama/Getty Images]