NOTE: This story was updated below on February 21, 2017. Many men have reported being targeted through posts on Craigslist, MeetMe and Meet4U app in addition to Plenty of Fish.
TDS is hearing from several gay and straight men that the scam is targeting them on the dating site PoF (Plenty of Fish) Read our article “Plenty of Fish Has Plenty of Sharks” and our newest article Your Worst Nightmare: Sexting a Minor… Or So You Think!
This scary and brilliantly simple scam came to our attention in early September 2015 from Reddit user “DazedGuy87” and we thank him for giving us permission to report his story. You can read the initial Reddit post and user responses on Reddit.com.
DazedGuy87: Last night I received a text message from a girl who said she was someone who I was talking to a few weeks ago from a site and was just finally texting me. So I answered back saying hi. She then sent me a picture of her face and then asked for one of me. Next message i was asked if i was looking for a relationship and then suddenly [she] started to send me pictures of herself wearing [only] her underwear. Then she sent one of her nude and asked for one in return. I was asked to join her on Skype which I do not use nor ever had and i told her i did not have it. She then stopped talking. Today I get a message that has affected me dearly. I’ll just post what the message said…
This is Robert Wilson I am Sarah’s father, and I have come across the messages and pictures that have been exchanged between you and my 15 year old mentally disabled daughter. I wanted to inform you that I have an appointment today with Detective Brown at the sex crimes task unit. I will be turning over to them your information, which I do know who you are and where you live, plus this phone and laptop with all of the pictures and messages. I will be signing an arrest warrent in your county. If you would like to discuss this before I go to the police department I would suggest contacting me ASAP, or get an attorney.
So I messaged the guy back, there was no way i knew this girl was underage (if it is even a girl). He then calls me from the number and starts yelling at me. He said the girl got my number from her babysitter and he names someone’s name. Anyways he said he destroyed a laptop that she was using. She told him she was gonna run away with me and I was coming to get her and take her away. Something that I never said nor discussed. He asked if I was a threat to his family which I am not cause I dont even know where they live. He then said to me “we all make mistakes and I won’t go to the meeting if you agree to pay for the laptop” that is supposedly his company’s laptop that he works for. He said there were 3 options:
1. I go to jail
2. I pay for the laptop or
3. he loses his job due to the laptop.
The appointment with Detective Brown has been cancelled. He said he couldn’t bring charges against you unless he had the evidence. Please do not worry about this because I am a man of my word as I believe you’re a man of your word. I will be sending you my information to you shortly. I be texting you from my company phone in just a min sir.
I then get a text message from another cell phone:
Good evening sir. This is Robert Wilson and I am touching base with you to let you know that this is my work number. The other phone has been turned off and put into my safe, and I’ll be in touch with you shortly. Please respond to this letting me know that you have received this message.
I responded quick[ly] and then in no time I get a message which had to be copied and pasted:
My wife said this is the easiest and safest way to handle this situation. You need to purchase a paypal my cash card. You can get them at CVS, Family Dollar, Dollar General, and some other convenience stores. If you dont have any of those stores close to you, you can go to their website and look under locations to find something close to you. Once you have downloaded the money to the card i just need the 10 digit code under the scratch off on the back of the card.
I asked for a written agreement, which may of been smart on my part [be]cause he basically admitted to extortion.
I Robert Wilson swear under penalty of perjury that i will not prosecute in any type of court against you upon the receipt of 300.00 for the laptop which is in associated with the nude pictures and messages exchanged between you and Sarah who is a minor. Thank You.
I really don’t know if this is a scam or what. Also the numbers that contacted me [were] from Alabama, which according to the guy they moved from there to Virginia over a year ago. I wouldn’t think they would keep an Alabama number. I just hope this is a scam. I [have] been looking around and have not seen anything quite like this posted. I [don’t know] what to do. I can say there [were] pics exchanged. I have been bothered by this for a day now. The guy who called always called me sir.
DazedGuy87 got taken for quite a scary ride. Before our readers think that he might be a bit naïve, consider that most young adults spend many hours each week in a wide variety of social media like Facebook, Whisper, Instagram, Tinder, Twitter, Snapchat and many others. Reaching out to other young people is as common as breathing. So when “Sarah” said that she talked to DazedGuy87 a few weeks before it’s easy to believe.
This is a very clever scam because of the way in which it baits the “mark” into believing that he has committed a felony. And it doesn’t matter whether it was intentional or not. Visit this review of the law about sexting a minor from this post on the Illinois State Bar Association Journal. You can understand that this is a serious issue.
We have found this same scam being reported by several people on the website 800notes.com between August 24 and early September. We suspect that this scam will be targeting lots of men this fall. However, it also seems that variations of it were reported in 2013 and again in 2011. Check out these posts on Yahoo discussion boards and AsiaOne.com:
The consequences of this scam can be devastating as evidenced by the 2013 reported suicide of a Texas Professor who was targeted in the same way:
It is our theory that this particular scam targeting Reddit user DazedGuy87 was perpetrated by a criminal gang outside the United States. We believe this because of a few “bread crumbs” in the way the scam was conducted and the language used. For example, we think it likely that a lower level “underling” first contacted DazedGuy87. Once the victim was hooked, the underling passed him off to a “higher-up” or leader using the second phone number. Also, there were subtle language nuances that lead us to believe that English was not the scammer’s first language.
Check back with us. We will update this story as new information becomes available.
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Today we were contacted by a young man named Allen. He was targeted by this scam and reported the following:
“A girl named Donna Church sent me nude pictures and then told me she was underage. A “Detective Matthews” called me from Greenville South Carolina Sheriff’s Office and informed me of the “charges.” The phone he called from is 864-777-0283. I checked with the Greenville police and Sheriffs office… neither place have anyone by that name working there. The father then called me from a Las Vegas phone number 702-269-6521 and demanded money to withdraw the charges placed against me. According to him, his wife placed the charges and is epileptic but he was “on my side.” He asked me to pay him with PayPal pre-loaded cards. I called the father out on it, and he made threats to me. Then about 5 minutes later I get a call from “Detective Matthews” saying all the “charges had been withdrawn”….how convenient. The father made another threat to me and I ignored it.”
We received an email from Henry who was also targeted by this scam and told us the following:
“My name is Henry, I was scammed last night using the app Plenty of Fish. [NOTE: PoF is a free online dating app.] The girls name was Dianna Miller and it said she was 19 on her profile and she said she was bored and asked for my number. I asked for hers she gave it to me and then I texted her. She sent me a picture of herself and then asked one of me, then she sent me a nude and asked to see my [genitals], and then she sent me another one. Her “father” called today said she was 15 and that he wanted me to go to a CVS and get two prepaid cards for $300 each on them or he’d let his wife turn his phone in. I don’t buy it, kind of freak out, ask a legal friend of mine said it was a scam… Then I get a call later tonight from a private investigator getting a warrant for my arrest if I don’t resolve it. Didn’t answer calls again same thing, that he’d take he warrant to the judge and arrest me personally.”
We received the following message from another user of the app POF (Plenty of Fish), a free dating service. This sender has a gay twist to the scam….
“I got a message from a Gentleman name Greg. His user name was greg4207 on POF. On his page it stated he was 21 and from Fort Hall in Idaho. The messages go on saying hi and asking how each other was. Then he was saying he is just trying something new coming into the Gay community. He proceeded to ask me to send him photos. I told him I can’t on that web site so he requested I text him. So we swopped numbers and continued our conversation. Straight to the point it was he requested photos so I sent approx 4 images of me disclosing sexual content. He told me to hold on he was going to go and get his laptop from his Dad’s room to take some for me. After that I never heard from him.
Today while at work I get a phone call from a restricted number (can’t pin-point the dialect from the individual) stating he was from my home town law enforcement and if I didn’t comply he would get the County sheriffs and Local Cops to come and arrest me on many charges. He gave me a number to a Local cop and I asked for his information and he was quite rude on the phone but we got disconnected. I called the number and it was the so-called dad. Same story. They have the phone and they are giving me 2 options. either I go to jail or I pay for the cancellation changes for the phone and the plan which are $800.00 dollars. Speaking with the Dad he stated he was going to call me back. During this time I have contacted local police and started my own claim against them.
The “Father” called me back expressing how he is holding the phone away from his wife cause she wants to turn it in. But he wants to give me a chance to fix the situation. He wants me to send money to his wife via western union. I noticed the number came up as a South Carolina number on my phone. So I asked where he was from and said he was from Savannah, GA. and a transaction needed to happen today. Doing some of my own research and finding your web page I see this is a scam. I have already contacted the police so they know the situation.” [NOTE: TDS has corrected some of the grammar and language used in this email to make it easier to read.]
We received the following message from yet another gay man using the app POF (Plenty of Fish), a free dating service.
“I got a message from a Gentleman name Greg, Username greg4207 on POF. On his page it stated he was 21 and from Fort Hall ( Which is in Idaho). The messages go on saying hi and asking how each other was. Then he said he is just trying something new coming into the Gay community. He proceeded to ask me to send him photos. I told him I can’t on that web site so he requested I text. So we swapped numbers and continued our conversation. Straight to the point, he requested photos so I sent approx. 4 images of me disclosing sexual content. He told me to hold on, he was going to go and get his laptop from his Dad’s room to take some for me. After that I never herd from him.
Today while at work I get a phone call from a restricted number (can’t pinpoint the dialect) from the individual stating he was a part of my home town law enforcement and if i didn’t comply he would get the County sheriffs and Local Cops to come and arrest me on many charges. He gave me a number to a local cop and I asked for his information. He was quite rude on the phone but we got disconnected. so I called the number, freaking out, like what the hell is going on. I called the number and it was the so-called dad. Same story. They have the phone and they are giving me 2 options… Either I go to jail or I pay for the cancellation charges for the phone and the plan which are $800.00 dollars. Speaking with the Dad, he stated he was going to call me back. I have contacted local police and started my own claim.
The Father called me back expressing how he is holding the phone away from his wife because she wants to turn it in. But he wants to give me a chance to fix the situation. He wants me to send money to his wife via western union. I noticed the number came up as a South Carolina number on my phone. So I asked where he was from and he said he was from Savannah, GA. [He said] a transaction needed to happen today. Doing some of my own research and finding this page [I see] this is a scam. ”
Think you are being extorted by a real woman? Think again! Read Luke’s story “Sextortion by Bot?“
We received the following message on September 1 from another gay man:
“Unlike the other user who was contacted by the scammer, I unluckily contacted that particular scammer. We talked a while and exchanged numbers. His POF (Plenty of Fish) profile stated that he was 18y/o, and lived in Charleston, SC. What drew me to him was not only his good looks, but he had some common interests. He works on small motors, and loved to fish. He seemed to be very familiar with places in my area, and went to a high school not far from my own. He stated that he lived in Ladson, SC. After talking with him on the 29th, and over the course of 2 days, we exchanged pictures(nude). He then stated he was going to be making a video for me. I asked him the next day where the video was because I hadn’t received it, since I told him to send it to my email, because I have an old flip phone that doesn’t receive videos. He apologized and stated as his mom falls asleep, he will make the video. Well, I hadn’t heard from him in nearly 36 hours.
Then out of the blue this evening, I get a text from someone claiming to be “his father” stating that he caught him trying to make a video for me, and that he tried to commit suicide, and is in the hospital. His wife wants me locked up, but he stated I am talking to you man to man about this, “it would be in your best interest to contact me by this evening”. I was at the time working on my house, and happened to check my phone and was shocked at what I was reading. I walked outside to call “the father” and the phone just rang, and no answer. Which btw, I had tried calling Jason9797 over the past several days, and his phone was always “off”, and no voicemail setup. I got another text from “the father” stating the following…
“Can’t talk right now but sir my son is hurt and wife mad at me I just don’t know what to do my wife wants you locked up. I have my son’s phone but something got to be done about this I do not want a man to go to jail. But if that’s what it take then I will go that way so I am coming to you as a man before this phone go to the detective I have a bill that i can’t pay for and my wife feel that you are in fault for this if he want not texting you I have all the texts and pictures. So how can we work this out bill is a 4500 medical bill and I do not have the money for so let me know what should I do my wife does not know that I’m talking to you I’m coming to get you as a man”.
After this was sent to me, I was just taken back by it. I replied to “the father”
“Hey this is [name removed]. I am sorry to hear about your son. He contacted me on a dating website. He claims he was gay, as I am too. On his profile he said he was 18. I asked him if he was 18 because i don’t have anything to do with anyone under that age. I myself am gay. I had no idea your son was in the closet or under the age of 18. Also your son told me his name is Jason, not Brent. Again, i am sorry to hear about your son.
“The father” then replied back to me saying:
Brent is his first name and Jason is his last
I then replied back to “the father”
“Idk what to tell you sir. Your son is entirely at fault on this. He lied to me and his his actions from you. This is not on me, this is on your son! Its not my fault that your son is gay and lied and hid it all from you and from me. I’m done with this bs. Deal with your son and his actions. I’ve done nothing and have nothing to do with the fact that your son is gay. All I can do is pray for him and I will.”
“The father” then replied
“I will just take the phone in then have a good day sir”
I then replied back to “the father”(getting no response afterward)
“Taking the phone in doesnt matter! Your son lied about his age! if I knew he was under 18, I wouldn’t have contacted him at all!”
So,.. this is pretty much where I am at this very moment. I contacted the local sherriffs office and told them everything, as embarrassing as it was to tell them this, I did. They told me exactly what I read on here, that its a scam and to ignore it. Its just amazing to me how they knew locations around me and knew schools and places that were around my area. If this is truely a scam, its one of the best I’ve ever seen!!
From reading the other gay incidence that occurred just the other day, I guess its not over and will be getting a call from “a detective” or something.”
On October 22, 2016 we heard the following story from a young man using Craigslist:
This originated from a Craigslist ad posted in western KY. I responded to an ad for a 22 yr old girl looking for friendship. It said she currently lives in SC, but soon moving to Paducah KY. A week or so after responding I received a text saying ” Hi this is Jennifer Davis from craigslist” I noted the phone #, and said hi back. “she” then told me her story, then sent me a pic. Innocent enough?? Not so much. She asked me to send a face pic, which I did. Immediately I received a full body nude pic of the girl, then several sexually explicit pics of the girl. And on and on. I deleted all the pics. A couple days later I received all the same pics from her again with a note saying she lied about her age, and she wad 15 and needed my help. Right after that I got a call from the number a man claiming to be the girl’s father. He told me his wife had discovered the photos and conversation and was gonna turn it over to police. But he was on my side and said we could put it behind us if I would send 1000 dollars via moneygram. I smelled scam right away. I said ok give me a couple hours to get the money together. I contacted a lawyer in Charlotte NC. I was told about the scams that were going on and this one was textbook. I waited for the man to text me back wanting his money, and told him I knew it is a scam and I’m not sending any money. A couple hours later I got a call from “Detective Wilson” saying I was being charged with sexual exploitation of a minor. I asked what Police Department he was with, no response, I asked for his badge number, click!!!! Nothing since!!!
On October 28, 2016 a young man sent us the following story about being targeted from a Craigslist post:
Recently while browsing Craigslist I pulled an ad for a 22 year old looking for companionship. Thought nothing of it and messaged them first with a brief description of myself and interests and from there they kicked it into overdrive. Immediately got flirty responses meant to bait me into revealing more about my background and send more pictures. After a week of back and forth with some mildly risque topics “she” sends me a random address I never even bothered looking at, a cell phone number from Tampa I noted and the fact that she’s actually 15. I state my disinterest and delete everything with a ‘do not contact me again.’ A few days later I get a call from “Detective David Higgins” of C3 Cyber Crime. However, the caller ID pulled their hotline number which was a red flag right off. I started recording the call and get the silliest of news. He says they have been investigating the girl for having contacted people before and that they are currently bringing someone in on charges caused by her. He then says he wants to hear my side before filing felony charges. Now this is how the fun starts… I happen to work with a few attorneys and ask them a few things when he says he’s putting me on hold. They [the attorneys] laugh and advise messing with him so I fake cry and beg for anything but jail. Then he offers a one time deal and a contract saying I won’t go on Craigslist ever again for a nominal fee of $1400. Then I say I can’t pay that. He asks if I can do $650. I say I can’t do that either. Then he gives me his “chief’s” cell phone number to set up a payment plan. Low and behold it’s the same number the 15 year old used. Needless to say I swore up and down I’d call and thanked him over and over, then hung up and haven’t heard from them since.
Update January 23, 2017:
We received an email from Danny on January 23 asking us to call him directly. He said he had a story to tell us. Danny was using the app Meet4U and was contacted by a woman whose photos made her look about 30 years old. (We’ve heard this recently from other men as well.) She suggested they leave the app and use texting but within about 10 minutes of texting “Rebecca” sent Danny sexts. The next day Rebecca’s “Dad” named Gerald called Danny demanding money and saying that his daughter is now in the hospital because of Danny’s exchange of texts and she is only 15. Oh yah… And his daughter is mentally disabled. (Father’s choice of words) Danny also got a call soon after by a “Detective Smith” using a Georgia number 912-226-7903. The Dad’s number was 818-200-9635, which shows up as California in a Google search. Thankfully, a friend of Danny’s convinced him it was a scam and that led him to our articles to confirm it!
Update January 29, 2017:
A young man we’ll call “C” contacted us with a variation of this scam. Here’s what he said…
You know how this story goes, the “girl” texted me (803-829-6242), next day “dad” calls from Lowell, North Carolina (704-899-4719) saying I’m going to jail. I grieved his family and that his daughter broke the mothers laptop making a video for me…at the time I asked what kind of laptop and he stuttered and didn’t know. I had had enough and hung up, he called me back and said it was a $2000 macbook pro that he just bought less than a month ago. Which makes no sense, how could you buy a $2000 laptop and not know what you bought when asked. He told me to go to Walmart and buy this silly thing to transfer money or he’d call the cops. I blocked his number as well as the girl. Today I just got a bunch of calls from a new number 704-336-8398 which I assume is the “detective” now. Just gonna ignore all that noise.
Update February 21, 2017: Scott recently contacted us with this story…
So I was this dating app called MeetMe, formally known as Myyearbook and there was this 18 year old who’s online name was Hayden Smith. It was not very long before we exchanged numbers seeing as her profile said she was almost never online. She and I started texting. Nothing crazy at first, but she was interested in some of my sexual interests. Me being an open and honest person shared a few brief things and naturally she wanted to see a picture of what I was packing. So still under the pretenses of her being 18 I sent her one and then never got a reply back later after that. I then received a phone call from (512-649-2808) claiming to be her father. He said his wife was upset and already called a lawyer, but he wanted to settle things without putting his daughter through the legal grief and public embarrassment. So he said that he would speak to said lawyer about arranging a way to pay something since “meeting up would result in us being required to go to court.” At first I was certain that it was real and so I waited for his call back. While waiting I researched into this as I remember hearing about a lot of these things being scams. He called and said if I paid for the deactivation and destruction of his daughters phone he would not press charges and to go to a Dollar General to acquire a Green Pay card and put the amount of 1006 dollars on it. So I naturally started to think this was just a giant scam and blocked his number. Later on I got a call from a second number (803-856-9873) so I blocked that one as well.
UPDATED: March 1, 2017
Below is the letter sent to 48 men at the end of February, 2017 who have contacted TDS about this scam.
Subject: U angry enough to get the sext scammers arrested?
You are one of 48 young men who contacted TheDailyScam.com in the last 9 weeks about the underage girl sext scam. That’s right, 48! Some of you paid the scammer and some realized it was a scam before sending money. All of you were really scared, upset and angry at being targeted. Imagine how many other men out there got scammed and didn’t report it to me. IT’S TIME TO STOP TO THESE BASTARDS AND I NEED YOUR HELP TO DO IT!
We all want these scammers caught but it means asking ALL of you to do something that is going to be uncomfortable. Here me out…
On February 23 I received another email from a young man who was really upset and embarrassed. He fell for the extortion and had just sent the scammer $800 and was supposed to send more next week. It made me so angry that I decided to call the FBI and spoke to an agent named John. I wanted to give the FBI as much information about this scam and the number of guys it had targeted. (…but not your names or contact information as I will always protect your privacy.) Though Agent John was sympathetic and agreed that this was a problem, he said that since I was not the victim there was nothing he could do. But, he said, if I could get the guys who were targeted to report it…
Agent John told me that all calls to your local FBI to report a cybercrime are routed to the same call center where Agent John works. Imagine if that call center gets nearly 50 calls on the SAME day reporting the SAME crime. This would get their attention! I’m on-my-knees asking each of you to do this! I know it will be uncomfortable. The call will be recorded. Many of you felt embarrassed and humiliated. Many of you sent a sext and felt that, just maybe, you could be prosecuted. I have good news for you! Agent John told me that if the girl’s profile identified her as over 18 then you can’t be found at fault. Every one of these apps will have records of the profiles that were set up showing what you told me. You all said that the girl’s profile said she was 19, 20, 21 or 22 years old! You did not sext a minor!
SO HERE’S THE PLAN…I’m asking you to take the next few days to gather any information you still have about being targeted. Emails, texts, screenshots, names, phone numbers, dates….anything! Write down everything you remember. Many of you told me that you looked up the phone number and learned that the number was located in North Carolina or another state. Many of you told me that it sounded like the caller was one race but the girl’s photo was another race. Write it all down. If you cannot remember all the details, contact me and ask me to send you back the emails you sent me when you reached out. (Yes, I’ve kept them all, and protected your identity unless you let me use your first name in our articles.)
On Wednesday, March 1st I’m asking all of you to call your nearest FBI office (https://www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices) to report this crime. Be prepared to tell them everything starting with your name and phone number. Breathe! You’re going to be OK. We need to put these bastards behind bars and that means getting the attention of the FBI.
When you report this crime it’s really important to point out the following:
1. How did you first find the girl’s profile and what age did “she” list herself as. What app did you use? BE SURE TO TELL THEM IF YOU CONNECTED USING YOUR SMARTPHONE! (This is important for legal reasons)
2. Tell the FBI that your communication moved to texting, if that’s what happened. (This is also important for legal reasons)
3. Describe anything you remember about the voice of the father or the voice of the detective (if you spoke to the “detective” or “sherrif”) For example, was there an accent?
4. Tell YOUR story with as many details as possible.
MOST IMPORTANTLY…. If the agent says there is nothing he can do and tells you to report it to ic3.gov, remind the agent that this started as a cybercrime but then became extortion over the phone. Insist that he listen because others are calling to report the same crime! And then visit this site and report your crime again: https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx