If you’ve ever sent secret, naked pictures of yourself over the Internet, you could be a ‘sextortion’ target.

That’s the warning from a new cyber investigation company, focusing on Internet relationships you may have through social media and dating sites. You could be dismayed to learn “the attractive man or woman you’ve been communicating with on social media is actually a scammer who plans to blackmail you and destroy your life.”

“Welcome to the world of sextortion, an online form of blackmail in which sexual images are used to extort either money or sexual favors from the victim,” according to Cybersleuth Investigations, Inc.

The “ordeals” in Los Angeles and around the nation typically begin with “catfishing”, “where a perpetrator creates a fake online profile, often using stolen photos of an attractive social media user,” a company statement reported. “After establishing contact and beginning a relationship, perpetrators convince their targets to send them provocative photos. These predators threaten to post the photos online or release them to a victim’s family or employer if they aren’t paid, and if they are paid, the blackmail continues.”

Cybersleuth CEO Terry Evans said that while news stories are often reported about teens targeted for sex and money through the Internet, not much is talked about regarding adult victims.

“In recent years, there’s been a significant increase in the number of predators who troll social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and dating sites including Match.com and Plenty of Fish, seeking unsuspecting victims,” Evans said.

“No one is exempt from being targeted by online predators,” he said. “In a 2016 survey of over 3,000 Americans, 47 percent reported experiencing some sort of online harassment or abuse.”

While cybercrimes such as sextortion are on the rise, Evans said many people who experience this type of harassment never tell anyone. A 2016 survey conducted by the University of New Hampshire’s Crimes Against Children Research Center found that a third of the victims who responded to their survey didn’t report the incidents because they were too embarrassed.

Evans said “speaking up can help protect” victims, and companies such as his can provide assistance, including working with legal authorities.

And, of course, the entire problem can be avoided by simply never sending racy photos to anyone on the Internet.

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