Friday, 10 February 2017

Sexy Women From Philippines Target Men To Do Sex Acts On Cam then Blackmail Them

Sextortion, lies and videotape: the Philippine cybercriminals who target men worldwide

A picture of Caparas from her Facebook page.

HONG KONG: It was a quiet Tuesday after­noon at the Sha Tin office of an international courier company when John, a 26-year-old customer-service supervisor, received an enticing Facebook message from a woman calling herself Samantha Cheng.

After introducing herself, the woman asked John (not his real name) to switch to Skype and then invited him to go somewhere private for a video chat.

“I’ve got something to show you,” she promised.

“I went to the male toilet in the office and started video chatting with Samantha,” John later recalled in a police statement. “During the video chat I saw a female aged 20 to 25 with long hair and pale skin take off her dress in front of the camera.”

Western Union near Maria Caparas's home

Cheng then asked John to return the favour by performing a sex act on himself while she watched.

“I did so,” he told police. “Then I logged off Skype and went back to my work.”

Two hours later, his nightmare began. John received a Skype message from Cheng telling him she had recorded his performance and posted it on YouTube.

She sent him the link to the video and told him she would share it with his family and friends on Facebook unless he sent US$3,000 to a Western Union account in the Philippines. If he followed her instructions, she would delete the video.

A picture downloaded from Caparas’ personal computer following her 2014 arrest shows a group of her female and trans­sexual “chatters” at a Christmas party in 2013.

Panic-stricken, John rushed to the nearest Western Union office after work only to find it closed.

After a sleepless night, he stopped there on his way to the office and sent HK$23,000 to one Socorro Rafol in the Philippines.

He e-mailed his Western Union receipt to Cheng, who acknowledged it. Rather than delete the video, however, she left it on YouTube.

Two hours later, she demanded more money and John sent a further HK$20,000 to another person, Helenita Tienzo.

The demands for money continued. At 4pm on the same day, he sent a further HK$7,000 to a third person from another Western Union branch.

The following morning shortly before 10am, he sent another HK$20,000 after Cheng promised to delete the video clip upon receipt of the money.

By now, John had paid out HK$70,000 in less than 48 hours after first encountering Cheng.

The next morning he received a phone call from Cheng asking him to chat with her on Skype.

She asked for more money and John said in his statement: “I thought it was not reasonable to give further money so I decided to make a report to Hong Kong police.”

John’s humiliating experience in October 2013 is far from unique.

He is one of thousands of men in Hong Kong and worldwide caught out by an astonishingly simple internet scam known as sextortion.

In 2013, police figures reveal, 477 Hong Kong men reported being victims of the scam.

The following year, there were 638 victims and, in 2015, 1,098 said they had been targeted. Last year saw another 697 victims – and those are just the ones who plucked up the courage to report their cases to the police.

Seemingly, all sextortion requires on the part of the perpe­trator is an internet connection, moderate competency in English and a malicious disposition.

The women that victims see stripping on screen are those in pre-recorded clips down­loaded from pornographic websites, while the people behind the keyboards are usually young men – often transsexuals – working in gangs. And the Western Union transfers are invariably collected using fake ID cards.

The consequences can be catastrophic. Just two months before John was blackmailed, 17-year-old trainee mechanic Daniel Perry, in Dunfermline, Scotland, also fell victim to the scam after being contacted by someone he was led to believe was a girl in the United States.

He was hounded by his tormentors to pay more and more money and – in messages found on his computer later – told he would be “better off dead” if he didn’t pay up.

He sent a final message to his blackmailers saying “bye, bye” before jumping to his death from the Forth Road Bridge.

Four other victims in Britain committed suicide after being targeted in 2016. They were among about 900 reported cases last year.

Caparas’ two-storey home in the centre of North Hills village, in the Philippines.

Remarkably, the blackmailers of John and Daniel and thousands more victims are members of a single prolific syndicate based in one ramshackle village two hours northeast of Manila, the suspected leader of which is a former slum dweller called Maria Caparas, known locally as the Queen of Sextortion.

North Hills, in the Bulacan district, is a remote and non­descript village set up to rehouse people from the poorest parts of Manila in an ongoing government programme to clear the capital’s slums.

Today, residents tell us, about 70 per cent of the 1,500 households in a village with few employ­ment opportunities make their living through cybercrime.

Victims of the North Hills syndicate are said to include an Asian pop star and a Hong Kong tycoon’s son, who paid HK$15mil to stop his video being circulated, according to sources familiar with the investigation and inter­viewed by Post Magazine.

Single mother Caparas, 37, was relocated to North Hills 10 years ago with her five young children and was said by neighbours to be so poor she had to beg for leftovers.

Today, she is believed to own 10 properties in the area, including a villa with a swimming pool and a two-storey block in the centre of the village where youngsters congregate in a billiard room lined with computer terminals.

One resident who has known Caparas since she relocated to the village says, “She is smart, cunning and ruthless. She started making money by doing live sex chat with foreigners. Then she graduated to sextortion and that’s when the big money started rolling in.”

The billiard room lined with computer terminals at one of Caparas’ North Hills properties.

Caparas is believed to have more or less invented the crime, which is now being practised by syndicates elsewhere in the Philippines, as well as cybercriminals in Africa, and has been featured in an episode of British futuristic television drama Black Mirror.

Using a band of flip-flop-wearing urchins, inclu­ding girls as young as 12, Caparas is accused of targeting thousands of victims over the past five years.

In 2013 alone, according to the Philippines police, HK$4mil was remit­ted by Hong Kong victims to Western Union offices used by her gang.


Caparas, after her arrest in September 2016.

After Daniel’s death, Caparas was arrested with dozens of other gang members in an Interpol swoop.

She was released a month later and rearrested last September. She is now in custody awaiting trial for child abuse and trafficking.

Remark­ably, she is still online and uses Facebook from her prison cell – and, after being contacted, agreed to a face-to-face interview.

Speaking in the squalid and chronically overcrowded women’s block of Bulacan Provincial Jail, Caparas describes how the sextortionists of North Hills trawl Facebook for victims, targeting professional men in their 20s, who are apparently most vulnerable to blackmail demands. - South China Morning Post


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