Interpol has confirmed the dismantling of a transnational sextortion gang that raked in a whopping $47,000 from dozens of victims. As per Interpol, 12 individuals have been arrested for alleged involvement in the gang’s malicious activities.

Reportedly, the arrests took place between July and August 2022 after the conclusion of a joint investigation from Interpol’s cybercrime unit along with Singapore and Hong Kong police.

The agency traced at least 34 cases, all linked to the same gang. The criminals mostly targeted people in Hong Kong and Singapore via online dating and sex platforms.

“We conducted a proactive investigation and in-depth analysis of a zombie command and control server hosting the malicious application, which, along with the joint efforts by our counterparts, allowed us to identify and locate individuals linked to the criminal syndicate.”

Raymond Lam Cheuk Ho – Hong Kong Police

Modus Operandi

For your information, sextortion is a form of sexual exploitation in which a target is coerced into producing sexually explicit content through manipulation or threats. The victims would send the content to the criminals, which is later used to blackmail them.

According to Interpol’s press release, in this campaign, the victims were tricked into downloading an app to their devices to engage in naked chats, but the app contained malware designed to steal their contacts. The extorters would receive the nude videos through the app and threaten to send them to all their contacts if the victim didn’t pay the amount.

However, the sextortionists didn’t always rely on the same modus operandi. Sometimes they spammed their victims with messages, informing them about secretly filming their intimate videos via their webcam. They also used breached info like email IDs and passwords to make their threats appear legit.

Interpol has observed a sharp rise in sextortion complaints in the past few years, primarily during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even a single intimate image or video can make the victim vulnerable to sextortion threats. The agency urged victims of sextortion or other threats to stop contact with the blackmailers and share evidence with the police. In any situation, the victims must not pay the malicious actors, Interpol advises.

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