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NCIS warns sailors of 'sextortion' scam

Army, Air Force personnel have also been victimized

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MAYPORT, Fla. – The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is warning Sailors and Marines that scammers are trying to get money from people in exchange for not releasing embarrassing photos online.

A Naval Station Mayport official told News4Jax they have not heard of any local sailors being targets, but Navy, Army, Marine, and Air Force personnel have been victims of the scam. NCIS and Navy support personnel want to make sailors aware so they can avoid being victimized.

"They really need to be cognizant of how they advertise themselves online, their comments, anything that ties into the military," NCIS Division Chief Megan Bolduc said.

Bolduc said that younger military members are likely being targeted because they are seen as having a steady income, and because they are away from friends and family. She says that they have been trying to educate sailors about the dangers online and the best ways to protect themselves.

Here's how the scam works: A person would onto his or her Facebook account and see a friend request from a stranger. After chatting with the person for a little while, that stranger will ask the potential victim to move the conversation to Skype.

Once on Skype, the video chat could turn sexual in nature, and the perpetrator will be recording everything without the sailor knowing. They will then tell the sailor that if they don't send them money, they will share the video with the sailor's friends, family, and colleagues.

"The problem is, they engage in these activities that they believe are consensual, but they are recorded without their awareness," Boldup said. "They really are completely unaware of the fact that this is going to be a problem."

At Naval Station Mayport, the Fleet and Family Support Center is helping sailors --especially the younger ones who are often targets -- in all aspects of online safety to make sure they don't become a victim.

"A lot of times those younger ones might be the easiest targets even though they are the most tech savvy?" said Kathy Selves with Mayport's Fleet and Family Support Center. "They're the ones the most profiles, the most online, easiest to get to. The youngest have the least sort of experience with the rest of the world and are going to give everybody the benefit of the doubt."

"They may be away from home the first time. They're away from family, might be engaging in people online as a form of company, for example," Bolduc said.

NCIS offers instructions on making sure that a sailor's privacy settings are strict enough so random people can't find out much about who they are.

"They should be able to go home and feel free to interact with who they need to interact with, but they also need to know that they need to protect themselves," said Kathy Selves with Mayport's Fleet and Family Support Center. "We don't want them to feel like they're vulnerable when they're out in their home life."