Police say a number of young men are becoming the victims of sextortion. We spoke a guy from BC on how he was tricked into it.
All screenshots courtesy Taylor Cooper
It’s no secret that not everyone who you talk to on the internet is who they say they are. A growing number of men in Canada are falling victim to a scam in which catfish accounts on Facebook are adding them, direct messaging back and forth with them, and convincing them to get on Skype to perform sexual acts. Taylor Cooper, a 26-year-old pipeline worker from British Columbia who asked VICE to use his real name in case other victims want to reach out to him, became one victim of this widespread scam in August.
Cooper says an “average-looking… bookworm-y type girl” using the name Kelsey Smith who appeared to be in her early 20s and had no mutual friends with him added him on Facebook, began a private messenger string with him, then convinced him to get on Skype with her. After he got naked on webcam with her, the person he was talking to tried to extort him for over a grand by posting a recording of their Skype session on YouTube and threatening to leak it to his family.
VICE: What led up to you Skyping with this person?
Taylor Cooper: Literally she added me, and then a week later she messaged me and it was just all in one go. In the [IM] conversation I sent you, that’s the whole thing, and within about an hour, we Skyped.
What exactly did the person get you to do on Skype?
I was just waking up, I was a little hungover, and it was kind of really out of the blue. Then she said, “I’m single,” and she’s like, “What are you doing right now?” And she’s like, “You should add me on Skype.” I’m kind of no stranger to internet hookups and stuff like that, so I was all game, and then we started Skyping, and it was the girl in the pictures—she was on the camera. The whole time I’m thinking this is too good to be true. Another weird thing was that she said that her microphone was broken, so I couldn’t talk to her via the video, I had to keep going back to the [typed] chat on Skype. Then she kept saying, “Show me your cock, and I’ll take my shirt off.” So of course, I went with it. She said, “Show me your ass” too, which I thought was kind of weird. I just went along with it, and she took her shirt off. Then all of the sudden, the video just went black. Then she sent me the link: it was a YouTube link of the video of me. Then she told me to listen to what she had to say very carefully, then gave me a whole list of my family members with their full names.
What family members did she list off?
I think maybe she could see my whole friend list on Facebook, and since my last name is Cooper, it was all my Coopers that I had as Facebook friends. So like cousins, aunts, uncles, some family members who I hadn’t seen in years and just have them on Facebook. I assumed that she only looked at my last name, but I have a stepmom and stepdad too—they have different last names.
What did you do then? Did you consider paying this person off?
No, there was no way I was going to pay. They wanted at first $1,500 Canadian. So I kept on playing the whole I’m broke, I’m poor thing in the conversation. I just kept saying I had no money, trying to stall her. While I was trying to stall her, she posted the video of me on my timeline, and she said, “Taylor Cooper is a pedophile.” So I’m freaking out because she said she was 20, right? But obviously it probably wasn’t even a girl. Luckily for me, it was about 4:30 or 5 in the morning when she did that, but I immediately deleted it off my timeline. Then I wanted to stay on Facebook, so I just started deleting every single friend I had on there. I was freaking out. I was living with my buddy, and he woke up and didn’t really know what to say about the whole thing because it’s pretty hard to believe. So I kept telling her I had no money, and then the price kept on going up and down. She asked for $1,500 at first, then she changed it to $500. I kept on saying I was broke, and she was like, “OK, send $90 right now.” It was just back and forth of me begging her not to do it.
How did it all end then?
I told her my pay day was a couple days from now and that I would send her the money on Friday. She gave me a Western Union address to send to her, and it was Ivory Coast, Africa. I phoned my best friend, and he was like, “Just talk to your family and tell them not to open up any videos that are sent. Nothing came of it; they didn’t send it to anyone. But I phoned my dad and was telling him and my uncle not to open anything. Thinking about it now, maybe I shouldn’t have done that, but I was just kind of freaking out. My uncle, my dad, and my stepmom knew about it. They kind of understand. I’ve seen my uncle since then and the whole family, and they haven’t said anything about it. I think they know I was kind of embarrassed.
I think eventually the scammer got scared. They ended up deleting all the messages, and nothing ended up happening. I don’t know if I just got lucky, or maybe they felt bad for me because I was playing that pouty story.
Did you ever report it to the police?
No, because I just knew that if they’re out of the country, there’s nothing they can do about it. When I read your previous article about it, I thought it was good that other people were reporting it. I was glad when I found out I wasn’t the only person it happened to because it felt pretty silly. I couldn’t imagine if it happened to guys who were married or had kids—that’s when they probably pay.
Do you know anyone else who this happened to?
I actually did. A friend of a friend of mine in BC had the same exact thing happen to him. He just deleted his Facebook, and it kind of went away.
How do you feel about it now that a bit of time has passed and you have heard about it happening to other people?
It was really crazy. It scared the shit out of me when it first happened. I think it’s just people in foreign countries just sitting on computers all day adding people, it’s just like fishing—you get a bite once in a while. It’s crazy how advanced this has gotten. Even when I saw the girl on webcam taking her shirt off, it must have been a prerecorded video.
I don’t mind you using my name because if someone’s in that situation, they read this, and they want to talk to someone about it, I will gladly try to help them. I don’t get embarrassed too easily.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
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