POSTED: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - 3:00am
UPDATED: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - 3:04am
TECH NEWS (CNN) — Who would have thought that getting naked and naughty with a stranger online could have negative consequences?
It turns out that in addition to the potential for walk-ins by significant others and soul-crushing lack of self-respect in the morning, would-be Internet Lotharios now have to worry about being blackmailed.
Police in Singapore are reporting what appears to be a ring (or rings) of online scam artists who use attractive women to "friend" victims on social sites, seduce them into cybersex on webcams and then threaten to post images or videos of them online if they don't pay up.
"They would commence a webcam conversation with the victims and initiate cybersex by undressing themselves first before persuading the male victims to appear nude or perform sexual acts in front of the webcams," the Singapore Police Force wrote in a post on its website. "Unknown to the victims, the suspects had recorded the acts."
According to the police, more than 50 such cases were reported in 2012, up from 11 the previous year.
In the wonderfully sensational style of journalism reminiscent of Next Media Animation's "animated news" (the Taiwanese folks who showed us Tiger Woods' 2009 traffic mishap and Steve Jobs turning into a ninja) Singapore TV station HD 5 created a 10-minute "reconstruction" of the scam.
It shows our hero Danny, a dorky student, being "friended" on Facebook by the lovely Lilly, who proceeds to talk him out of his pants on camera before abruptly disappearing. The tryst-gone-wrong is then followed by an e-mail and phone call from a shadowy dude demanding $50,000.
Graham Cluley, of Web security firm Sophos, warns that if such a scam spreads, it could encompass more than just blackmail.
"You can imagine how a man, believing he is being seduced online by a sexy woman, might be all too eager to click on a link she suggests or run a malicious program on his computer," Cluley wrote on his blog. "Before he knows it, his computer could be under the control of a hacker."
It was unclear Monday whether Singapore Police have made any arrests related to the scams. A message to the police force was not immediately returned.
Singapore Police warn potential targets to be wary of strangers befriending them on social networks and to avoid giving away personal details or "performing compromising acts" with people you barely know. The police also urge users to call authorities immediately if someone tries to extort money from you.
Cluley adds a simpler word of advice: "Be careful out there, and keep your trousers on, chaps."