The gay community in Australia has been warned about a group that’s targeting users of dating apps and sites.
The Canberra-based AIDS Action Council (AAC) revealed that the criminals create multiple similar false social media and dating profiles to lure gay or bisexual men who are looking for a hook up.
ABC reported that the group, believed to consist of three or four individuals, earn the trust of gay men in order to arrange a meeting.
The criminals then threaten to out their victims or expose their use of the dating services unless they are paid a sum of money.
“Victims of this scam are being met by a group of men who are threatening people with physical violence, blackmail and extortion,” warned AAC on its Facebook page.
“[They said] they’re going to exploit them, if they don’t give them money they’re going to tell their friends and family what they’re doing,” explained Philippa Moss, AAC Director, to ABC.
“People don’t necessarily admit that this is what they’re doing. There is stigma and discrimination attached to using these apps for hook ups,” she added.
Two victims have thus far come forward to the organisation, which has assisted them with support and reported the incidents to the police.
AAC has urged members of the community to take steps to help ensure their online safety. These include: “Double check online connections are who they say they are (are pictures real, or fake, has the person provided real contact information? Do you get a ‘bad feeling’ about them?), ensure someone knows where you are going and ensure you meet somewhere you are safe and comfortable.”