Extortion Scam: West African Scammers Accuse Men Of Being Sexual Predators – Some Took Their Own Life!
Police in France and Belgium say they have arrested 19 members of gangs involved in this extortion scam who sent people fake court summonses that accused them of viewing images of children being sexually abused.
People who received the extortion messages were threatened with prosecution and tricked into paying thousands of Euros in supposed fines.
Police say the extortion scam had been going on for more than two years, with at least €3.5m extorted.
At least one victim killed himself.
The man had been stung by the scam on two occasions, first being made to pay €5,978, then another €7,480.
One man targeted twice was first made to pay €5,978 before the criminals asked him for a further €7,480. “Feeling powerless and trapped, he took his own life,” the police said.
Six others may have also potentially killed themselves, police said. The average age of the victims was about 60 years old.
Colonel Thomas Andreu, head of one of the special French police units, said “the sums extracted from victims were often larger, in some cases as much as €200,000.00”
“We thought that the fraud was being run by one central structure,” said Col Andreu. “However, it turned out to be several little teams which were not linked.”
Eighteen people were arrested in France and one in Belgium. All were aged between 20 and 50. All but three suspects were ordered to appear in court on fraud charges.
The Paris prosecutor’s office opened an investigation after the scam began at the start of 2021. By June of the following year, it had received 400 complaints relating to it.
The scam began at the start of 2021, leading the cybercrime section of the Paris prosecutor’s office to open an investigation. By June 2022 about 400 complaints relating to the scam had been made to authorities.
It is believed that the scam was targeting random men, but it must have connected with real predators who took their own life, or just the thought of being accused was enough.
Authorities are still trying to understand how many people were affected and believe that six others who were targeted may also have killed themselves.
Commissioner Christophe Durand of the French anti-cybercrime unit said the “victims had suffered real distress”.
The scammers spent some of the money they extorted in France, though the majority of it was sent to the Ivory Coast and other African countries.
The phishing scam involved false emails from police, judges or institutions such as Europol threatening victims with prosecution unless they paid a “fine”.
“We thought that the fraud was being run by one central structure,” said Col Thomas Andreu, the head of one of the special French police units. “However, it turned out to be several little teams which were not linked.”
The sums extracted from the victims “ranged from less than €5,000 to up to €200,000,” he said.
The suspects spent some of the money in France, but most of the money was sent to Ivory Coast and other African countries. The extortion suspects are aged between 20 and 50.
Normally, government impersonation scams focus on the possibility that the victims really do owe a fine or a fee. But in this extortion case, they were being threatened with exposure if they did not pay a fee.
But in today’s highly charged climate, any man that is accused of being a pedophile would have real fear – if it was true or not – even if it was from an extortion scammer. This is what the scammers were counting on. All they had to do was send the message and make it clear that they would be accused on social media and what man would not pay!
Why It Worked
In today’s climate where accused men are automatically presumed guilty, most men harbor fears or concerns about being incorrectly accused of being a pedophile,
Instances of false accusations can occur in any context, including allegations of sexual misconduct. However, it is essential to note that false accusations of any nature, including those related to pedophilia, are relatively rare compared to the prevalence of actual cases of child abuse and exploitation. This is when the accusation is made by law enforcement. However, there is no real information about accusations not supported by investigations.
Societal discussions around child protection and abuse prevention should prioritize the well-being and safety of children while also ensuring fairness and justice for all individuals involved. Striking a balance between protecting children and respecting the rights and dignity of individuals is a challenging task that requires thoughtful consideration and an evidence-based approach. So in our society, the safety of children would come first, and the man accused presumed to be guilty until proven innocent, but even then the damage would have been done,
It is completely understandable why men would have paid the extortion. In cases where they may not have been able to meet to demands of the scammers, they took their life instead of facing the real potential of the shame and disgrace that might have followed.