58 arrests in Philippines 'sextortion' operation

Friday 02 May 2014 13.29
Some 250 laptops and computers were seized in the raids in the investigation into "sextortion" operations
Some 250 laptops and computers were seized in the raids in the investigation into "sextortion" operations

In the Philippines 58 people have been arrested in an international operation targettiing gangs who prey on foreigners who engage in cybersex.

Some 250 laptops and computers were seized in the raids in seven areas in the investigation into "sextortion" operations.

The criminal groups prey on people outside of the Philippines who engage in cybersex activities and extort money from them on threats they will upload their sex videos.

Alan Purisima, the national police chief, said “Operation Strikeback” was aimed at countering the Philippines' label as the “sextortion” capital of the world.

It involved working closely with Interpol in monitoring social media, specific IP addresses and following the money trail, he said.

He said the syndicates find their victims in social media sites and porn websites, where they befriend and invite them to engage in cybersex activities.

“After getting acquainted with the victims and successful exchange of online chat conversations, they invite and further entice their would-be victims to use video calls to engage in cybersex. And this will be recorded, unknown to the victim,” Mr Purisima told reporters.

 Police said the "sextortion" syndicates have collected millions of euros from hundreds of victims based in Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, the United States and United Kingdom in the last three to four years.

The extortion led to a suicide by a 17 year-old British boy. Police said there was strong evidence the boy had a chat with somebody from the Philippines.

The syndicates use a number of internet platforms, not only social media, like Facebook.

Mr Purisima said the "sextortion" syndicates demanded from $500 to $2,000 from victims in exchange for deleting cybersex material taken from them during cybersex sessions.

If they refused to pay, the material would be uploaded to their families and friends' social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter.

Interpol Director Sanjay Virmani said the operation showed there was "no hiding place for criminals."

Philippine Anti-Cybercrime group director Gilbert Sosa said the operation continued as there were further suspects to pursue.

Mr Purisima said some of the “sextortion” groups operate like call centres where the operator hires men and women, sitting in rows of computer cubicles, to lure in foreign clients.