The rise of the “Hitman or Pimp” scam: Protect yourself from digital threats

by Lorraine Williamson
digital threats

In the ever-evolving landscape of digital threats, criminals continually exploit new vulnerabilities to prey on unsuspecting individuals. One alarming example of this is a scam involving pornography websites.

In this article, we delve into the details of this scam, how it operates, and crucial steps to protect yourself.

The essence of the scam

Picture this: you receive a WhatsApp message from an unknown number. The sender claims to oversee female companions and accuses you of harassing one of them. Thus begins an extortion game that can push victims into a state of extreme panic.

The cybercriminals assert that, due to this alleged offense, the victim must pay hefty sums of money to avoid consequences. They may threaten to send hitmen to your home or even to the homes of your family members. They may also hint at actions like kidnapping, beatings, and even murder. Furthermore, to make these threats more terrifying and credible, they attach graphic images and videos of extreme violence: mutilated bodies, weapons, masked thugs, and other similarly disturbing visuals.

In most cases reported through the INCIBE Cybersecurity Help Line, victims admit to having visited prostitution dating websites. However, they insist they never interacted with any individuals advertised there. So, how do the criminals possess enough information to carry out this extortion?

How it begins

One of the identified modus operandi involves cybercriminals inserting fake ads with photos and a contact number on pornography or casual encounter websites, waiting for unsuspecting users to take the bait. Once they acquire the user’s phone number, they use it to scare and extort them.

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Protect yourself and don’t fall for the scam

It is crucial to safeguard against such threats and not succumb to the fear instilled by cybercriminals. Here are some guidelines to follow:

  1. Do not follow the instructions: Regardless of how terrifying the threats may be, do not comply with the instructions provided by the criminals.
  2. Report the number: Report the number from which you are being threatened, and after doing so, block the contact to prevent further communication.
  3. Do not share personal or banking information: Criminals can use any information you provide against you.
  4. Collect evidence: If the harassment persists, gather all possible evidence, such as screenshots, audio recordings, or call logs, and file a complaint with the police.
  5. Practice egosurfing: If you have provided any personal information, investigate what information about you is available online to prevent your data from being used in fraudulent activities.

Remember, these individuals generally do not intend physical harm; their sole objective is to obtain money through fear and intimidation.

If you ever find yourself in such a situation, keep a level head and do not succumb to blackmail. Seek help from the authorities to investigate the case and protect yourself. Do not be swayed by panic or the fear of “what people will say”; cybercriminals can exploit situations that threaten your reputation to pressure you more easily.

Various contact avenues

Scammers can use different methods to contact and intimidate you, employing social engineering and various tricks to extract money. The avenues through which they may attempt to reach you include:

  • Online messaging: Using chat applications or messaging services like WhatsApp or Telegram, they send violent images or videos to induce fear.
  • Phone calls: Direct calls with threats delivered over the phone, sometimes using anonymous numbers to avoid tracking.
  • Emails: Sending threatening emails, posing as hitmen or individuals from the criminal world, using menacing language and often fabricating details to make it sound more real.
  • Text messages: Sending text messages with similar threats, demanding money to avoid harm coming to you or your family.
  • Social media: In some cases, contacting you through platforms like Facebook, Instagram, or other social networks, creating fake profiles and sending terrifying messages.

Also read: Guardia Civil arrest nine in Valencia for extortion of €30,000 by firearm threats

If you or someone you know has been threatened by this scam, contact the Cybersecurity Help Line by calling 017 or through WhatsApp (900 116 117) or Telegram (@INCIBE017).

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