- It can be fun to chat to people you meet virtually, but you don’t always know they’re telling the truth about themselves
- There’s many people out there scamming vulnerable teenagers for money; use these tips to protect yourself
You know the thrill of intensely messaging an online friend, for hours on end. But what about when you’re messaging someone on social media or a dating app, have never met them IRL – and it gets nasty?
It goes like this: you start chatting with someone new. They’re friendly and charismatic, and they get you, like nobody else does. You’ve exchanged photos – you’re cute, they’re cute. Before too long, you’ve invested a load of time, effort, and most of all, emotion in them. You might think you’ve found your best friend. You might believe you’re dating. You might even have dropped the “L Word”.
One day they ask to video chat with you, then ask you to take off your clothes. You really like and trust them, and know they really like you. So you do it.
And this is where the trouble really starts.
There’s a lot of people out there scamming vulnerable teenagers for money. You think you’re sharing a vulnerable moment; they’re filming you getting naked so they can blackmail you. If you don’t pay them, they’ll publish the video or send it to your parents and friends.
It’s not easy to accept that someone you consider a friend has tricked you. But it’s a horrible reality. Last year, 383 Hong Kong students were victims of “naked chat blackmail”. The youngest was a 11-year-old boy. He was lured into a naked video chat, then blackmailed into spending more than HK$2,500 on gift cards for online games, and giving the scammer the password.
Then there’s the “Compensated Dating Scam”. Scammers offer to go on a date with you, but first ask you to pay them for it, often in crypto currency or online gift cards. But once you’ve transferred the money or cards to their account, they disappear without a trace, leaving you heartbroken – and broke.
Here are the Hong Kong Police Force’s top tips for protecting yourself from scams:
- Use a search engine to check out new friends
- Use “reverse image search” to check photos on their social media accounts are really them, and not just stolen from a website
- Be wary of any request for money
- If you’re not sure they are who they say they are, do video chat – but keep your clothes on
Information provided by the Cyber Security and Technology Crime Bureau (CSTCB).