Online Dating Sites, Sextortion, and Your Clearance
Online dating sites are a popular way for people to search out and meet others for dating and socializing. As is usually the case, there are also those who exploit the originally intended use of the sites for more nefarious purposes. Scammers use legitimate dating sites to make contact with unsuspecting site members, some of whom are clearance holders (e.g., military). A common scam used by perpetrators is known as sextortion; schemes intended to blackmail or extort by using online sexual acts or photos. This appears to be a serious enough issue for the U.S. Army because their Criminal Investigation Division Computer Crime Investigative Unit felt it prudent to issue a warning notice to the Army community. Here is how the scam may work:
A site member gets on the dating website and makes contact with someone who appears to be another member, however, this other person is actually a scammer. The two of them engage in a chat and exchange information, and the scammer tries to get the other party to send intimate photos or videos that might be compromising. That is when they then pull the pin of the grenade and threaten to expose the person in public social media or to family members unless they pay a fee. They might even accuse them of trafficking in child pornography or soliciting minors and threaten to call law enforcement. Now, you can imagine the stress level will shoot up for one who holds a security clearance when faced with this dilemma.
What to do if it happens to you
If this happens to you, cease all communications, create a chronological timeline with all the facts to include who, when, where, what, and how, and then contact your FSO or Security Officer and local law enforcement. Things that they will need to know are: the date site or social media platform used; user profiles; email accounts; where or how money was directed to be sent, etc. The key here is that you are showing you cannot be blackmailed or influenced to compromise national security. Yes, it may be embarrassing, but in the long run a warning or counseling is a much better alternative than potentially losing your clearance and your job.