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‘Sextortion’ scam targeting boys is one of this week’s top five scams

Other scams include missed deliveries and fake sweepstakes

Photo (c) Andranik Hakobyan - Getty Images
The FBI warns that a "staggering" number of teenagers and young boys have been victimized by a “sextortion” scam this year that is aimed at extorting money from the victims. The scammer poses as a young girl and persuades the victim to text a sexually explicit photo of themselves.

The scammer then threatens to distribute the photo unless a payment is made using gift cards. Parents should warn their children about this scam, especially since “sexting” by minors is legally considered the distribution of child pornography. The scam has been tied to more than a dozen suicides.

“Met this girl on an app called wave,” one victim posted on Reddit. “She sent me a picture, I sent one back. (She) threatened to send them to my followers on insta(gram). Not heard anything of it at school.” 

A text from your own number

Scammers have figured out how to send a text that appears to be coming from the victim’s own phone. Why? Because they know it will get the victim’s attention. The messages vary. Some say “thank you” for a recent purchase that the victim didn’t make.

Without thinking, the recipient may click on a link to see what the purchase is. Big mistake. It downloads malware and tells the scammer it’s a working phone number, which is then sold to other scammers. Bottom line, if you get a text from your own number, it’s a scam.

Missed delivery scam

With the arrival of the holidays, scammers have stepped up the missed delivery scam, sending out texts saying a retailer or shipping firm was unable to make a delivery. Since you no doubt have been getting packages this month, it might seem legitimate.

The aim of the scam varies. The text may ask you to click a link, which downloads malware. Some lead to fake websites where you are instructed to enter personal information.

U.S. Customs imposter scam

Chances are you know someone who lives in another country. So what would you do if you got a call from someone identifying themselves as a U.S. Customs agent who said the government intercepted an illegal product that was being shipped to you.

The “agent” says you could be in a lot of trouble and would likely face arrest. But you are told you may be able to resolve the matter by making a payment. In gift cards.

Sweepstakes scam

Believe it or not, one of the oldest scams around never seems to die and this week picked up momentum, maybe because everyone seems to need a little extra money around the holidays. You get a call, text, or email telling you that you have won a big cash prize in a sweepstakes that you didn’t enter.

To claim the prize, however, you must pay taxes and fees that amount to several hundred dollars. But when you wire the funds your fake sweepstakes winnings disappear, along with your money. Remember, you can’t win a sweepstakes you didn’t enter.

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