A Vancouver man says an individual on a popular dating app threatened to share explicit photos he shared if he didn't send them money.
The 25-year-old man, who we will call Jared, has used the Tinder dating app on and off for roughly three years. His name has been changed to protect his privacy.
Jared matched with a woman on Friday (Jan. 21) who was located within one kilometre of where he lives. He told Vancouver Is Awesome in an interview that his entire conversation with the woman seemed "normal" throughout the day.
"Nothing seemed outright nefarious, it just seemed a lot like previous encounters that I had," he said, adding that he attributed a slight language barrier to her being from Poland.
Jared searched for the woman on Instagram to help him determine she was who she said she was, and agreed to add her on the photo-sharing social app Snapchat.
He noticed the photos the individual sent him on Snapchat matched the ones in the social media profile. From there, the conversation escalated quickly to what Jared described as "dirty talk" and they exchanged explicit photos.
Jared emphasized that he's also sent explicit photos consensually to partners and other women he's met off Tinder in the past—and he's never had any issues.
"I do tend to conclude that the person I’m talking to is a real person and not a scammer before I send anything explicit," he explains. "I’ve never had such issues before since I usually have a pretty easy time spotting out a fake or suspicious profile that presents a scenario that’s too good to be true."
Shortly after he sent the explicit photos, however, the individual sent him a message on Snapchat with screenshots of the photos he'd sent along with a list of his Instagram followers. The person was threatening to send them to everyone on the list unless he sent money. That kind of criminal activity is known as "sextortion."
Were there any clues that this person was a scammer?
"One thing I missed was after I added this individual on Snapchat, I was immediately unmatched from them on Tinder and I didn’t see this until after the blackmail had occurred," he explains.
"It’s very odd for someone to do that and typically if something like that happens, it’s a huge red flag."
The individual was also reluctant to provide a time that they could go out or meet up, which is fairly common for most matches where sexual interest is expressed, Jared added.
But the Vancouver resident emphasized that the biggest sign was that the exchange seemed "too good to be true,"
Jared noted that can be the case "when someone is quickly changing the conversation to a more sexual conversation rather than continuing to talk about what was being discussed before," he explained. "For example, we were just talking about movies and she immediately began sending explicit images and changing the subject.
"In that instance, I wish I would’ve just trusted my gut but I clearly made a big mistake."
Jared hasn't filed a police report but noted that the individual has not followed through with their threat.
Vancouver Police spokesperson Sgt. Steve Addison told V.I.A. in an emailed statement that an incident like this should be reported to police so an investigation can take place.
In 2021, Surrey RCMP reported an uptick in the rise of "sextortion" scams: the threat to send a sexual image of a person to other people if they don’t pay them a sum of money or provide more sexual content.
While cases like Jared's are common, fraudsters use other methods to get scare people into giving them money. In the majority of these instances, individuals receive an email where the scammer claims to have hacked into their computer and recorded them performing an explicit act (i.e. masturbation). After this, the scammer tells the victim that they will release the video publicly unless they are paid in Bitcoin. In these cases, there was no proof of photos or videos actually being taken.
Some tips to protect yourself from being a target of sextortion are:
- Disable your webcam or any other camera connected to the internet when you aren’t using it.
- Create complex difficult to guess passwords for your devices and accounts and change the passwords frequently.
- Don’t send intimate photos of yourself to anyone and don’t perform any explicit acts online.
V.I.A. has reached out to Tinder for comment.