Being Blackmailed for Money on Facebook? Here's What to Do

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader Peter T. writes:

" Dear Dennis,

I have a friend who recently met someone on Facebook. What started out as simple flirting soon became a romantic relationship online, though they have never met in person. For sake of argument I'll refer to my friend as Bob and his romantic interest as Tina. In a moment of weakness, Bob sent a video of himself in a compromising way, and is now being blackmailed by Tina. She is demanding a lump sum of cash, or says she will send the compromising video to all of Bob's friends on Facebook. You are the first person I thought of who may be able to help with this scam. Any thoughts? Bob's deadline to send the money is in the next few days, or the video goes live. Thanks for any help you can provide. "

My response:

This is a typical scam.

Here's how it works: scammers sign up with a Facebook account, then send friend requests to others (at random). The scammer's Facebook profile is made to look attractive to bait as many people as possible. If the friend request is accepted, scammers continue to bait the victim over the next few weeks - eventually they send an undressed image (not of themselves, but of a model), then ask for reciprocation. Once they have 'the goods,' they make threats to blackmail - just as in Bob's case.

Are You Being Blackmailed for Money on Facebook? Here's What to Do

Even if Bob were to pay the money, there is no guarantee that (a) the video won't be shared regardless, and (b) the scammers won't keep asking for more hush money down the road. So, as a wise man once said: "We don't negotiate with terrorists" - this principle can be applied the same in this case.

In other words: don't pay the money - it's a scam.

Instead, use this form to report any blackmail threats to Facebook.

Facebook may send a follow up, requesting the compromising video or image in order to proactively ban the media from being shared. In doing so, they are able to reverse engineer the video or images mathematically in what is known as a "hashed image" or "image fingerprinting", then use that as a filter to prevent it from being shared. Facebook promises that the videos or photos won't be viewed by humans.

If by chance a compromising photo is uploaded, it can be blacklisted by simply clicking on the photo, then "report" it.

It should be noted that Facebook also has algorithms in place to scan for undressed images of people - regardless - so that would be mitigated right away anyway, even if the blackmail threat was not formally reported.

Yet another option is to close the Facebook account until things blow over. Keep in mind that if the account is closed, it won't be possible to file a blackmail report. Also if the account were to become active again later, the same issue may arise down the road. As such it is best to simply report the case immediately.

Here are some related articles from Facebook:

I hope that helps.

Got a Computer Question or Problem? Ask Dennis!

I need more computer questions. If you have a computer question - or even a computer problem that needs fixing - please email me with your question so that I can write more articles like this one. I can't promise I'll respond to all the messages I receive (depending on the volume), but I'll do my best.

About the author: Dennis Faas is the owner and operator of Infopackets.com. With over 30 years of computing experience, Dennis' areas of expertise are a broad range and include PC hardware, Microsoft Windows, Linux, network administration, and virtualization. Dennis holds a Bachelors degree in Computer Science (1999) and has authored 6 books on the topics of MS Windows and PC Security. If you like the advice you received on this page, please up-vote / Like this page and share it with friends. For technical support inquiries, Dennis can be reached via Live chat online this site using the Zopim Chat service (currently located at the bottom left of the screen); optionally, you can contact Dennis through the website contact form.

Rate this article: 
Average: 4.9 (7 votes)