Beware of extortion through social media

Oman Wednesday 25/August/2021 07:00 AM
By: Times News Service

Muscat: Scammers are taking to social media to extort money from people through a number of methods, including blackmail, emotional manipulation, or taking them into their confidence, the Royal Oman Police has said.

Asking people to stay alert of those who might try to scam them out of their hard-earned money, Brigadier Jamal bin Habib Al Quraishi, the Director General of Inquiries and Criminal Investigations, said that people need to understand the dangers of activities considered part of the ‘forbidden circle’ on social media.

“The development of technology has made it very easy for many of us to communicate with others, or complete transactions easily, but this has also led to the emergence of various fraudulent practices where scammers try to seek out victims and deceive them, seize their money, blackmail them, or use them to achieve other objectives,” he said.

“Those who seek out victims on social media are also doing so to increase their own fame to grow their follower numbers,” he added.

“To protect people from such actions, we have laws that play an important role in ensuring social media is safe for all of us, prevent us from getting involved in cybercrimes, and prevent the promotion of wrong behaviour and negative thoughts rejected by society.”

“Fraudsters take advantage of a person’s emotional, physical, or other vulnerabilities to gain their trust, by which time the victims allow them access to their personal information,” explained Al Quraishi. “Once that happens, the victim is blackmailed and threats are made to expose or defame them. In response, the victim pays the scammer some money, in the hope that these perpetrators will stop blackmailing them.”

Although victims might think paying off their blackmailers will put an end to the threats they face from online criminals, the ROP says otherwise: despite promising to never threaten their victims, a blackmailer’s first demand will not be their last.

Most blackmailing operations are conducted by specialised criminal gangs who extort a continuous source of money from their victims.

The Royal Oman Police advises against responding to all those who seek to defraud others online.

“Whoever thinks they might be victims of this criminality must discuss their problems with someone they trust,” said Al Quraishi. “Do not allow yourself to get trapped within your own mind. Instead, inform the authorities without hesitation. That way, the matter will be dealt with quickly and confidentially.”

“Also please stop using the service through which you were contacted by the perpetrator,” he added. “That way, you stop communicating with them, and cut their ability to influence you.”

The brigadier’s advice came in the light of criminals recently using social media apps to extort money from victims. He explained that many of the perpetrators of such crimes operate from outside Oman.

He revealed that despite previous warnings provided by the ROP requesting people to stay safe, those in the country continue to fall victim to fraudulent activities.

“We see that in criminal investigations we’ve recently dealt with concerning fraudulent activities through social media channels, there is often a desire for quick financial gain and excessive confidence in victims. Perpetrators also try to tempt their victims by sharing with them suggestions that are used to trick people into parting with their money,” he detailed.

“We would like to assure you that the tempting offers put forth by scammers are only a way to draw people into being robbed,” said Al Quraishi. “Please pay attention to such deals and be careful of them.”