Romancing a stranger on social media has its pitfalls and can prove costly. Mangaluru police have arrested two 20-year-old men who conned people on Facebook, Instagram, etc, by pretending to be a woman, exchanging smutty photographs, and then blackmailing them.
The duo mainly targeted rich businessmen and had made a lot of money within a short span of time.
The modus operandi of the youths was simple. Open accounts on Facebook and Instagram impersonating a young woman and then send friend requests to men who looked rich and old. The duo tried to trick elderly men because they thought it would be easier to lure them into their social media honeytrap. They used to flirt with the targets over Facebook chat for some time and then send nude pictures of a woman.
The accused – identified as Gokulraju and Pavan L – opened accounts with the name Sakshi Raj. They would send out a friend request to someone only after some basic research. However, they managed to get away with their con game by hiding their IP address using Tor browser, popularly known as Onion Browser (it keeps changing the IP address each minute, making it almost impossible to trace).
Once after getting close to their mark using their flirting skills, the two youngsters would share racy photos of a woman. They would then ask the target to send similar pictures of himself. The mark, who by then would have invariably fallen for 'Sakshi Raj', would readily send across the photographs. And then the duo’s real work would begin.
After getting the pictures, either Gokul or Pavan would make an internet call to the mark, claiming to be a police officer in possession of his smutty photographs. The caller would then demand money, threatening to release the photos on social media in case of noncompliance. The target would usually pay up to protect his reputation.
But the duo's con game came to an end after they tried to exploit a businessman in Mangaluru too many times. The victim had already been trapped and paid for his mistake. However, the duo started threatening him to pay up again and again. The businessman got fed up and filed a complaint with Kadri police station in Mangaluru.
Instead of him, Mangaluru city cyber police started chatting with the duo and managed to get their phone number. The two youngsters were asked to come to a certain location with the promise of money. When they arrived, the police were waiting to nab them.
According to police sources, the youngsters had collected over Rs 20 lakh in the past year using their social media honeytrap. “We request people to be very careful while using social media. Do not share personal information or photos with strangers or for that matter even with friends. Cybercrime has become a major threat these days. Nothing is private, nothing is safe, everything is public when you are too active on social media,” said an officer of the cybercrime police department, Bengaluru.