DOJ warns public: Protect personal online info, dodge ‘sextortionists’
MANILA, Philippines–The Department of Justice (DOJ) warned the public to protect its personal information online due to the growing problem of “sextortion” in the country.
In an eight-page advisory opinion issued Tuesday, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said that the Philippine National Police – Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP-ACG), and the Department of Justice – Office of Cybercrime (DOJ-OOC) have received numerous complaints claiming that they were all victimized by “sextortionists” online.
Citing reports from different law enforcement agencies, de Lima said that the so-called sextortionists assume fake identities and will try to gain the trust of the victims. Upon gaining the victims’ trust, the sextortionists lures the victims to perform sexual and lewd acts then take pictures of them while performing the act.
Then, the sextortionists would threaten to circulate the materials unless the victims pay a certain amount of money.
“More internet users are subscribing to social media websites without protecting their personal information and allowing online strangers into their network,” the Justice Secretary pointed out.
“This type of crime in cyberspace is as real as any real world extortion,” she said.
In 2014 alone, the PNP rounded up 58 Filipino sextortionists around the country after investigators from the International Police (Interpol), the US Homeland Security Department and other law enforcement agencies traced online chats from some of the victims’ computers.
Among the victims of the Filipino sextortionists was a Scottish teenager who committed suicide after being blackmailed.
The DOJ advisory stressed on the importance of guidance from parents and school authorities from the dangers of the internet.
“Minors are the ones most vulnerable to become victims of sextortion because of their general trait of curiosity and gullibility,” the advisory stated.
The DOJ warned that sextortionists may be penalized for violations of Par. 1 of Article 282 of Act No. 3815 or the Revised Penal Code; Republic Act (RA) No. 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012; RA No. 9995 or the Anti-Photo and Video Voyeurism Act of 2009; and RA No. 9775 or the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009.