WEB OF 'SEXTORTION' SPREADS TO PH

“Sextortion” activities worldwide, including in the Philippines, have become widespread that local and international police are moving to curb if not eliminate them. “(There is) a growing number of sextortion victims in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines, United Kingdom and the United States with potential victims in Australia, Korea and Malaysia,” Director General Alan Purisima, Philippine National Police chief, said in a statement Friday. Sanjay Virmani, Interpol Director Crime Centre Director, told INQUIRER.net at the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame that it appeared that “separate groups were working because obviously, it takes low investment to do this”. United Kingdom Ambassador ‎Asif Ahmad said in a press briefing that “sextortion does not respect any nationality… this is a serious and growing problem.” Local and international police officials got together Friday on the invitation of the PNP, which started a crackdown on “sextortion” activities in the country under Operation “Strikeback” on November 2013. The operation has since netted 58 suspects from Taguig City and the provinces of Laguna, Bulacan and Bicol. “Sextortion” is a combination of sex and extortion where a suspect blackmails a victim who has been recorded performing sexual acts online, which include posing nude in front of a webcam. The blackmailer then uses the video or image to extort more sexual favors or money from the victim in exchange for keeping the recording in his possession and not spreading it online. Other countries involved in the operation against “sextortion” are Hong Kong, Singapore, Scotland, United Kingdom, and Australia.THIS IS THE FULL REPORT.

ALSO: Int’l ‘sextortion’ ring busted

The suicide of 17-year-old British mechanic Daniel Perry in July last year led police to an international cybercrime syndicate based in the Philippines, and the eventual arrest of 58 people allegedly involved in “sextortion,” the Philippine National Police said on Friday.
“The Police Scotland investigators conducted a digital forensic examination of Perry’s computers and found that he had been a victim of extortionists,” said Senior Supt. Gilbert Sosa of the PNP Anti-Cybercrime Group (ACG). “They were able to trace the IP (Internet Protocol) addresses of the online accounts of the syndicate members to the Philippines,” he added. The multination operation, dubbed “Strike Back,” was carried out with the assistance of the US Homeland Security and the police authorities of the United Kingdom, Scotland, Hong Kong and Singapore. In simultaneous raids on Wednesday, agents of the PNP and the International Police (Interpol) swooped down on the syndicate’s “call centers” located in the Bicol region, Laguna and Bulacan provinces and Taguig City, arrested 58 people, and seized more than 250 laptops, computers, mobile phones, identification cards, documents, storage devices, credit and automated teller machine cards, pornographic materials, cameras and closed-circuit TV cameras.During Wednesday’s coordinated operations, a team of ACG personnel led by Senior Supt. Elmo Sarona raided the office of Money Maker Portal Web Solutions in Naga City, Money Magnet Portal Web Solutions in Libmanan town, Camarines Sur province, Money Builder Web Marketing Solutions in Nabua town, Camarines Sur, and Mocha Bytes Web Solutions in Legazpi City.READ MORE...

ALSO: Selling perfumes online was front of cybercriminals

NAGA CITY, Philippines—They were only selling perfumes and books online and earning commissions from it, protested the 84 workers and managers of Digital Minds, who were arrested when police swooped down on their company on Thursday. But the documentary evidence seized by investigators said otherwise. The evidence included remittances from Western Union and screen grabs of the fake identities allegedly used by the workers in extorting money from victims who were enticed to expose themselves or perform sexual acts in front of a webcam. Senior Supt. Elmo Francis Sarona, chief of staff of the Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group (ACG) at Camp Crame, said the company’s employees used Facebook to scan the Net for possible victims, zeroing in on those who seemed lonesome and away from home.READ MORE...

ALSO: Interpol, Philippines bust cyber extortion network

Philippine police, backed by Interpol, have arrested dozens of suspected members of an online extortion syndicate who duped hundreds of victims worldwide into exposing themselves in front of webcams, including a Scottish teenager who committed suicide after being blackmailed, officials said Friday. At least 58 Filipino suspects in the capital, Manila, and other cities were arrested recently after investigators from Interpol, the U.S. Homeland Security Department and other police agencies traced online chats from some of the victims’ computers, said Philippine National Police chief Allan Purisima. Purisima said the syndicate would secretly record the victims after tricking them into exposing their bodies or having cybersex, and later threaten to send the video to their relatives and friends unless they paid, usually from $500 to $2,000. He said members of the “sextortion” group would create fake Facebook accounts of fictitious young and attractive women and entice and lure victims with pornographic materials after striking up online chats with them. Hong Kong police Inspector Louis Kwan Chung-yin said more than 470 people from Hong Kong were victimized last year and about 160 so far this year. In one case, a victim paid the equivalent of $15,000, he said, adding that the victims were of various ages. Sanjay Virmani, director the Interpol Digital Crime Center based in Singapore, said the victims were from Asia, Europe and the United States. He said that the extortionist had been tracked down using evidence from computers and intelligence information from police.READ MORE...


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Web of ‘sextortion’ spreads to PH

MANILA, MAY 5, 2014 (INQUIRER)  By Julliane Love de Jesus - “Sextortion” activities worldwide, including in the Philippines, have become widespread that local and international police are moving to curb if not eliminate them.

“(There is) a growing number of sextortion victims in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines, United Kingdom and the United States with potential victims in Australia, Korea and Malaysia,” Director General Alan Purisima, Philippine National Police chief, said in a statement Friday.

Sanjay Virmani, Interpol Director Crime Centre Director, told INQUIRER.net at the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame that it appeared that “separate groups were working because obviously, it takes low investment to do this”.

United Kingdom Ambassador ‎Asif Ahmad said in a press briefing that “sextortion does not respect any nationality… this is a serious and growing problem.”

Local and international police officials got together Friday on the invitation of the PNP, which started a crackdown on “sextortion” activities in the country under Operation “Strikeback” on November 2013.


FILE PHOTO

The operation has since netted 58 suspects from Taguig City and the provinces of Laguna, Bulacan and Bicol.

“Sextortion” is a combination of sex and extortion where a suspect blackmails a victim who has been recorded performing sexual acts online, which include posing nude in front of a webcam.

The blackmailer then uses the video or image to extort more sexual favors or money from the victim in exchange for keeping the recording in his possession and not spreading it online.

Other countries involved in the operation against “sextortion” are Hong Kong, Singapore, Scotland, United Kingdom, and Australia.

Int’l ‘sextortion’ ring busted By Marlon Ramos Philippine Daily Inquirer 1:47 am | Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

Youth’s suicide in Scotland leads to arrests of 58 people in 7 PH areas


Fifty-eight people are arrested in the Philippines for their involvement in a giant, global Internet "sextortion" network, which led to hundreds of people being blackmailed, luring them on social media before extracting sexually explicit information or images. AFP

MANILA, Philippines—The suicide of 17-year-old British mechanic Daniel Perry in July last year led police to an international cybercrime syndicate based in the Philippines, and the eventual arrest of 58 people allegedly involved in “sextortion,” the Philippine National Police said on Friday.

“The Police Scotland investigators conducted a digital forensic examination of Perry’s computers and found that he had been a victim of extortionists,” said Senior Supt. Gilbert Sosa of the PNP Anti-Cybercrime Group (ACG).

“They were able to trace the IP (Internet Protocol) addresses of the online accounts of the syndicate members to the Philippines,” he added.

The multination operation, dubbed “Strike Back,” was carried out with the assistance of the US Homeland Security and the police authorities of the United Kingdom, Scotland, Hong Kong and Singapore.

In simultaneous raids on Wednesday, agents of the PNP and the International Police (Interpol) swooped down on the syndicate’s “call centers” located in the Bicol region, Laguna and Bulacan provinces and Taguig City, arrested 58 people, and seized more than 250 laptops, computers, mobile phones, identification cards, documents, storage devices, credit and automated teller machine cards, pornographic materials, cameras and closed-circuit TV cameras.

During Wednesday’s coordinated operations, a team of ACG personnel led by Senior Supt. Elmo Sarona raided the office of Money Maker Portal Web Solutions in Naga City, Money Magnet Portal Web Solutions in Libmanan town, Camarines Sur province, Money Builder Web Marketing Solutions in Nabua town, Camarines Sur, and Mocha Bytes Web Solutions in Legazpi City.

‘To identify other victims’

The operations in Laguna and Taguig led by Senior Supt. Bernard Yang and other Interpol agents netted men who were allegedly responsible for “sextortion” activities among victims in the United Kingdom, according to PNP Director General Alan Purisima.

Arrested in the two locations were Vincent Regori Bravo, Jomar Palacio and Gian Tolin.

In Barangay (village) Muzon, San Jose del Monte City, Bulacan, another team of ACG operatives headed by Senior Supt. Arnold Gunnacao arrested Aldrin Villamonte, Jemuel Matuguina and Emuross de la Cruz.

Sosa said the seized digital evidence “will be analyzed by the forensic team of the PNP-ACG with the help of experts from other countries to identify any additional victims and for follow-up investigations.”

Perry begging extortionists

In a news briefing at Camp Crame, Purisima said the operation “provided the opportunity for information-sharing and continuous collaboration, cooperation and coordination among our international and local partners in cracking down on cybercrime around the globe.”

Sosa said the illegal operations of the syndicate were uncovered after investigators of Police Scotland sought the PNP’s assistance in looking into the suicide of British teenager Perry.

Perry, a resident of Dunfermline, Fife, in Scotland, jumped to his death from the Forth Road Bridge near Edinburgh on July 15, 2013, after being victimized by Internet con artists.

“The investigators saw the exchanges between the victim and the syndicate members. Perry was begging the extortionists not to release his [sex] videos because he did not have money. But the syndicate kept demanding money from him,” Sosa said.

Ask.fm website

Perry’s problem started when he met a woman on the website ask.fm with whom he engaged in online chat conversations a few months before he committed suicide.

Believing his chat mate was a woman, Perry was tricked into doing sexual acts before his computer, which were recorded by the syndicate members without his knowledge.


INTERPOL Digital Crime Centre Director Sanjay Virmani, is interviewed by reporters following a news conference Friday, May 2, 2014 at the Philippine National Police Headquarters at suburban Quezon city northeast of Manila, Philippines. Philippine police, backed by Interpol, have arrested dozens of suspected members of an online extortion syndicate who duped hundreds of victims worldwide into exposing themselves in front of webcams or engaging in lewd chats, including a Scottish teenager who committed suicide after being blackmailed, officials said. AP

“The sextortionists then started to blackmail Perry,” Sosa said.

“They warned that they would upload his embarrassing videos on the Internet if he did not give them money,” he added.

The scammers also sent threatening messages to the victim. One such message read: “You need to let a blade meet your throat.”

Another said: “Kill yourself, mate.”

Facebook and Twitter

The PNP chief said syndicates involved in “sextortion” record or gather sex videos and nude photographs of unsuspecting victims through social networking sites such as Facebook, or extract incriminating images from mobile phones and laptop computers.

Purisima said the videos and images were then used by syndicates to “extort sexual favors or money from the victim with the threat of sharing these [images] with others” on Facebook and Twitter if the victim refuses to give in to their demands.

“Be cautious about the people you meet online. Revealing personal details online is extremely risky … because there are a lot of fake accounts online,” the PNP official warned, adding that images of attractive young women are often used to lure victims into engaging in online chats.

Police said the sextortion syndicates had collected millions of pesos from hundreds of victims based in Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, United States and United Kingdom in the last three to four years, most of whom pay between $500 and $2,000, through Western Union and other money transfer or remittance companies.

While elderly men were often targeted, children were also victimized, the police chief said.

Child pornography

The 58 people arrested would be charged with several crimes, including engaging in child pornography, extortion and using technology to commit fraud, Purisima said.

It was not immediately clear whether all 58 arrested were Filipinos, and authorities emphasized that the Philippines was not the hub of the global sextortion network, only that the current investigation had focused on the country.

Purisima said some of the sextortion groups operated like call centers where the operator hires men and women, sitting in rows of computer cubicles, to lure in foreign clients.

“The scale of this extortion network is massive,” the director of Interpol’s Digital Crime Center, Sanjay Virmani, said, adding that his group had been closely working with officials of the Interpol’s 190 member-countries, warning that the operation of sextortionists “is a growing threat.”

British Ambassador Asif Ahmad said online scammers and other cybercrime operators had been victimizing unsuspecting Internet users all over the world. “This is not an issue directly involving the Philippines exclusively. It respects no nationality or border,” he added.

Low risk of arrest

Easy access to the Internet, a relatively lower risk of arrest and big financial gains have caused such crimes to flourish in recent years in countries such as the Philippines.

Hong Kong police Insp. Louis Kwan Chung-yin said more than 470 people from Hong Kong were victimized last year and about 160 so far this year. A US Embassy official said American military personnel were among the victims in the United States.

Kwan said Hong Kong victims had paid up to $15,000 in desperate attempts to keep the sexually compromising material private. But once hooked, the victims sometimes found they could not escape.

Kwan said some victims paid up to three times before going to the police, “when they realized they could no longer afford to continue paying.”

Three of the arrested Filipino suspects were believed to have victimized Perry, who took his own life after reportedly being warned that his video conversations would be circulated to his friends and family if he didn’t pay up.

Working together

Gary Cunningham, a police officer from Scotland, said criminal complaints would be filed against the three Filipinos if there was enough evidence to connect them to the blackmail.

“You cannot imagine the impact this has had for Perry’s family,” Cunningham said. “They’re still trying to cope with the circumstances.”

Warning those still engaged in cyberextortion in the Philippines and elsewhere in the world, Virmani said: “You better be prepared for the consequences of your actions because as you can see we have made a commitment to work together. You will be caught and you will be held accountable for your actions.”—With reports from wires

Selling perfumes online was front of cybercriminals By Juan Escandor Jr. Inquirer Southern Luzon 5:22 am | Saturday, May 3rd, 2014


SIMULTANEOUS RAIDS Policemen herd 34 alleged members of an international “sextortion” syndicate into a jeepney following a raid inNaga City of the establishment that fronted as an online perfume store (right photo). It was one of the seven areas where simultaneous raids were conducted by the Philippine National Policewith the assistance of the Interpol,Homeland Security and other multinational forces. PHOTOS BY JUANESCANDOR JR.

NAGA CITY, Philippines—They were only selling perfumes and books online and earning commissions from it, protested the 84 workers and managers of Digital Minds, who were arrested when police swooped down on their company on Thursday.

But the documentary evidence seized by investigators said otherwise. The evidence included remittances from Western Union and screen grabs of the fake identities allegedly used by the workers in extorting money from victims who were enticed to expose themselves or perform sexual acts in front of a webcam.

Senior Supt. Elmo Francis Sarona, chief of staff of the Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group (ACG) at Camp Crame, said the company’s employees used Facebook to scan the Net for possible victims, zeroing in on those who seemed lonesome and away from home.

Porn stars

They then set up fake Facebook accounts using images of porn stars as profile pictures to entice their mark to engage in a chat and later in private conversations through Skype that would eventually lead to cybersex sessions.

Sarona said the victims were recorded without their knowledge while doing sexual acts before the webcam, and later harassed into giving money with the threat that the incriminating images would be posted on the Net if they failed to do so.

Scripts for chats

The head of the ACG said they also recovered scripts used in chatting with the victims that contained instructions on the most appropriate answers to give and the conversational lines to be used to entice the target victims into exposing themselves in front of the webcam.

In the Thursday raid, the police seized 73 computers and held for questioning the 34 workers in the premises, including the company’s owner-manager.

The questioning led the police to Digital Minds’ other branches where they arrested 32 in Legazpi City from a computer shop called Mocabyteâ along Barangay (village) Bonot, 16 in Libmanan town, and two in Nabua town, both in Camarines Sur province.

Sarona said they were able to trace the head of the operation, a certain Charvel Rebagay, who reportedly established a partnership with several co-owners that enabled him to branch out from Naga City to Nabua, Libmanan, and Legazpi City in Albay province.

Borderless crime

The investigation on the cyberextortion activities in Naga City started in November last year, with surveillance started in January, Sarona said, adding that the operation involved the Interpol because cyberspace is borderless, and the complainants were victims living outside the Philippines, except for one Filipino complainant.

Sarona said Rebagay’s establishment devised a lot of schemes to earn money, but the bottom line was that his company violated Republic Act No. 10175, or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.

Under the law, cybersex is defined as the willful engagement, maintenance, operation or control, directly or indirectly, of lascivious acts, exhibition of private parts, or any sexual activity with the aid of a computer system, Sarona said.

Those arrested were also held for violating RA 8484, or the Access Devices Regulation Act of 1998,ťwhich provides penalties for fraud involving credit card, telecommunications service or equipment, and other access devices made possible by advances in technology.

Interpol, Philippines bust cyber extortion network Associated Press 11:28 am | Friday, May 2nd, 2014

MANILA, Philippines—Philippine police, backed by Interpol, have arrested dozens of suspected members of an online extortion syndicate who duped hundreds of victims worldwide into exposing themselves in front of webcams, including a Scottish teenager who committed suicide after being blackmailed, officials said Friday.

At least 58 Filipino suspects in the capital, Manila, and other cities were arrested recently after investigators from Interpol, the U.S. Homeland Security Department and other police agencies traced online chats from some of the victims’ computers, said Philippine National Police chief Allan Purisima.

Purisima said the syndicate would secretly record the victims after tricking them into exposing their bodies or having cybersex, and later threaten to send the video to their relatives and friends unless they paid, usually from $500 to $2,000.

He said members of the “sextortion” group would create fake Facebook accounts of fictitious young and attractive women and entice and lure victims with pornographic materials after striking up online chats with them.

Hong Kong police Inspector Louis Kwan Chung-yin said more than 470 people from Hong Kong were victimized last year and about 160 so far this year.

In one case, a victim paid the equivalent of $15,000, he said, adding that the victims were of various ages.

Sanjay Virmani, director the Interpol Digital Crime Center based in Singapore, said the victims were from Asia, Europe and the United States. He said that the extortionist had been tracked down using evidence from computers and intelligence information from police.

Warning those still engaged in cyber extortion in the Philippines and elsewhere in the world, Virmani said: “You better be prepared for the consequences of your actions because as you can see we have made a commitment to work together. You will be caught and you will be held accountable for your actions.”

Scotland’s police officer Gary Cunningham said he was representing the 17-year-old boy’s family in tracking down those responsible for leading for his death last year. He said the family was “extremely supportive … in bringing to justice to individuals out there who have fallen victims to these crimes.”

Senior Superintendent Gilbert Sosa, chief of the Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group, said he could not specify the amounts extorted from the victims but said they ran into millions of pesos, or tens of thousands of dollars.

“This is not an issue directly involving the Philippines exclusively,” British Ambassador to Manila Asif Ahmad said.

“Cybercrime is international, and is an international problem, it respects no nationality or borders. We are all potential victims of cybercrime, none of us are immune.”


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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