The Skype sex scam - a fortune built on shame
One night a young Palestinian man living abroad fell victim to an online scam, involving a web camera and a beautiful woman. Here Samir (not his real name) tells the story of how he was trapped
It happened when I was home alone. This girl added me on Facebook. I didn’t think it was anything strange – I often get friend requests from old school friends who I don’t know well.
The next day she sends me a message: “Hi, how are you? I saw your profile and I liked you.” So I looked at her profile and, I mean, she was really hot.
That night she starts messaging me via Skype. She says she’s 23, her parents are dead, and she lives with her older sister in Sidon, Lebanon. She says she’s bored because she doesn’t study or work and that her sister is very strict. I ask her about her hobbies and she says she likes sex. She loves it, she says.
“Hmm,” I thought, “this is interesting.” At this point I am curious but unsure, because it’s strange how easily she’s talking about sex with a stranger. But I was bored, my girlfriend was out of town, and didn’t have anything to do. So I figured, “What the hell, I’ll chat with this girl and see where it goes.”
Eventually she asks if I have a webcam. So I turn on my video and say, “Can I see you too?” She turns on her video and when I see her, you know, she is a really beautiful girl. With a girl like this, you lose your head.
We continue chatting, but only in messages, not actually speaking. She says she’s afraid her sister will hear her. As we’re chatting she tells me that talking with me is turning her on. I’m thinking because she lives with her strict sister, in the south of Lebanon rather than in a more open place like Beirut, maybe she’s frustrated and looks for sexual encounters online.
Then she asks me to show her my penis. So I show her my penis. Then I say, “OK, your turn.” She lies on the bed, undresses, and starts masturbating. I’d never seen anything like it. It was so easy. Too good to be true.
So I start masturbating too. She tells me to put the camera on my face because it excites her, so I move the camera back and forth between my face and my penis. After a few minutes she pretends to have an orgasm. Still naked, she comes back to the keyboard to chat with me. She asks me what I do, and I tell her I work in marketing in Milan.
“Oh, so you must be rich!” she says. “Well, I get by,” I say. Then she says she hears her sister coming, so she gets dressed and signs off.
A half hour later I get a message on Facebook. “Listen,” it says, “I’m a man, and I recorded a video of you masturbating. Do you want to see it?” He sends me the video. It’s about five minutes of me masturbating.
“I have a list of your friends and family from Facebook – your mum, your sister, your cousins,” he says. “You have one week to send me €5,000, or I’ll send them the video.”
I was in shock. My first thought was to send him the money immediately. But I cancel her, or him, as a Skype contact and right away I get a message on WhatsApp. “I’m here,” it says. So I plead with him. I tell him I don’t have €5,000. He says, “Of course you do, you have a good job in Europe.” “No,” I tell him, “that was a lie, just to impress the girl, I’m just a pizza delivery guy.”
Then I remember a photo I had sent her of me tiling my bathroom and I say, “Look, do you think if I were some rich guy I’d tile my own bathroom?”
He’s sort of convinced by this and says, “That may be true, but I don’t care. You have one week to send me €2,000. Otherwise, I’m sending the video to your family.”
I try to calm down and think rationally. If I send him money, what is to stop him from coming back and demanding more?
Then it occurs to me that if he sends the video to my contacts people he isn’t friends with – it will go to a junk inbox that noone checks. And even if they check it, I figure, who is going to open a video file from an unknown person? It could be a virus. So I have two choices: I send him the money and I have no guarantee he doesn’t ask for more, or I refuse and hope no-one looks at the video.
The day comes, though, when he messages me and says, “OK, I’m about to upload the video to YouTube.”
“Upload it,” I tell him. “I don’t care any more.”
Then I change my privacy settings so no-one can post to my wall or tag me without my consent.
Then he sends me the link to the video on WhatsApp. I watch it again. It’s me masturbating, on YouTube. I feel sick to my stomach.
Immediately I start reporting the video to YouTube for sexual content. I report it, close the page, reload the link, and report it again. Over and over.
He sends me a message saying he’s about to send the link to my relatives on Facebook if I don’t pay.
“Go ahead,” I tell him, “send it.”
I couldn’t pay him. First €2,000, then perhaps €5,000. Where would it end? He was so upset. He starts sending me insults, telling me he’ll send the video to my mother, to everyone I know.
I keep reporting the video. Each time I’m watching the number of views to see if anyone else has viewed it. After about an hour YouTube takes the video down.
From what I can tell, all the views were mine, except for one. That could have been him viewing it after he uploaded it, or one of my relatives. I’ll never know for sure, but I’ve never heard from anyone. Maybe a male relative saw it and never told anyone.
Can you imagine, though, if an aunt had seen it? She would have told another aunt, her husband, her kids, soon my whole family would have known. I have family all over the world, the US, Canada, Australia, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Europe.
And what if my mum sees this? A video of me masturbating. I would have thrown myself out the window from the shame.
After the video was taken down I didn’t hear from the guy again. I imagine he moved on to bigger fish. I remember when I asked why he was picking on a poor young guy like me he had said, “You think I don’t target rich guys in the Gulf states? Of course I do. You’re lucky I can see from your Facebook page you’re not married, or I would be asking for a lot more money.”
I think it’s over, but every now and then I check YouTube to see if he’s re-uploaded it.