A Public Service Announcement — Very Important
Not my usual blog, folks. I will have no play stories, as I’m sick. Not sure with what — no congestion or sore throat or anything from the neck up. Just a very queasy stomach, plus aches all over and slight fever. But I’m a bit better — am actually sitting up at the computer. Yesterday, I was horizontal the entire day. Not in a fun way, either.
No, I have a story for you, and want to share some information that is important to us all.
As most of you know by now, my John is a switch, and, like many of us, has met play partners online. He’s been in the scene over 30 years, and has had many experiences, but nothing like what happened to him recently. And yes, I do have his OK to post this.
In the beginning of November, he was contacted on Alt.com by a fem domme who started out asking for money. This is common in the scene — no, I’m not talking about pro dommes now. Pro dommes provide a service, just as sessioning pro subs do — pay for play. But then you have what’s known as “finance dommes” — they seek out the men who get off on giving them gifts and cash, without asking for anything in return. And I’m not talking about little trinkets or some pretty lingerie here. I’m talking cars, rent, paying for cosmetic surgeries, student loan payoffs, etc. Big bucks. You may wonder, who does that?? You’d be surprised.
Fortunately, John does not do the finance domme thing, so he politely told her no, I’m sorry, I cannot give you money. Usually that’s the point where they get angry and dismiss him, and move on. This one didn’t. She took a different tactic, keeping him engaged. She started IMing with him, sending him pictures, talking about meeting. They emailed a few times. She asked for pictures of him. He sent them. She asked if he had a webcam; he said no. So she cyber-dommed him a bit.
So far, it was going like most of these online things go. I’ve done it myself, countless times.
On Thanksgiving weekend, John got tired of the exchange going nowhere and once again suggested that they meet in person. In the wee hours of Saturday night, she messaged him. “I have an alternate proposition,” she said.
She then went on to state his full name, where he worked, the jobs he’d held previously, and where he went to college. And told him that if he didn’t wire her $15,000, she’d out him to his work.
I woke up around 5:00 needing to use the bathroom, and I saw the light on in his office. When I came out, he told me what was happening. I felt sick, literally. I had to sit down. I can’t begin to imagine how he must have been feeling at that moment. Terrified, powerless, cornered. It was the middle of the night on a holiday weekend. There was no one to contact. It was just the two of us in shock. He could lose his job. He’d just bought a small condo near his work to avoid the long commute. He needed the job’s benefits for his upcoming heart surgery. His reputation would be ruined and who knows where he’d find another job.
When John said, “I guess I don’t have to worry about the heart surgery now, because this will kill me,” my own heart shattered into a million pieces.
We talked a bit. He couldn’t figure out how she’d learned his full name or his workplace, since he hadn’t told her either one. Then we figured out that, in his email, his full name shows in the return address. How many people are aware of that? I was, but many others aren’t. You have to go to your email settings and make sure only your first name shows, or your pseudonym, or whatever, or else what shows is the name you used to sign up. I asked him if he’d ever mentioned what kind of work he does, and he confessed that he had. So I went to Google and plugged in his full name + engineer. Bang. The first listing was his LinkedIn account. He doesn’t have a photo there, but she knew it was him.
We both knew he wouldn’t be able to do anything substantive as far as legalities were concerned until the weekend was over, so in the meantime, I suggested some friends who could perhaps give some helpful advice. We emailed a couple of them, and then I got back into bed while John continued to research on the computer. I couldn’t sleep, of course. I just shook like I had a fever.
He was able to figure out that this woman wasn’t local. Her Alt.com account has been suspended for abuse (what a surprise), but he Googled the email address he had for her. Google came up with a Russian dominatrix site. This was probably some sort of international extortion group.
On Monday, John swung into action with phone calls and emails. Various friends had gotten back to him, he contacted the Internet Crime Complaint Center (which is a partner of the FBI), Cyber Investigation Services and Data Chasers. He learned quite a bit in a short time — for one thing, this sort of thing is shockingly common. It even has a name: “Romance Scam.” Google it; you’ll be amazed. That’s why she’d asked if he had a webcam — that’s what these blackmailers do most. They get a video, and then threaten to send that to bosses, families, etc., unless the victim pays up. And of course, if they pay once, then they’re on the hook permanently. Because the blackmailers don’t go away. They keep coming back for more.
The advice he received unanimously? 1. Do NOT send any money, and 2. Cease all contact with her. Because in most cases, as the CIS and others told him, these operators usually have several victims on a string and will move on quickly to the next if you don’t engage with them. If you continue to engage, if you seem scared or hesitant, they will continue to badger you. But if you ignore them, most of the time they move on. They’re in this to make money, not exact vengeance. It isn’t personal.
So. John stopped replying to her messages. He changed his LinkedIn profile from public to private. And we waited. He was told that if he didn’t hear from her for two weeks, he could pretty much consider that it was over.
It’s now been a little over two weeks. He hasn’t heard a word from her, although he can still see that she’s logged into Yahoo IM. Probably working on someone else. Each day that goes by, we breathe a little easier. Perhaps he dodged a bullet. A huge, life-shattering bullet.
So why am I going public with this? Because it could happen to any of us, particularly those of us who engage on the kinky social media sites. We all have wonderful friends and nurturing companions, and sometimes, we forget about the predators and those who will ruin our lives and think nothing of it.
We cannot live in fear, but we can take precautions. First, as I mentioned, make sure your email does not show your full name. And better yet, always have separate addresses — one for kink folks, and one for work/vanilla.
Do not post face pictures on kinky sites. This one is tough, because people who are going to engage with you want to know what you look like. If you get to know them a bit after some correspondence, send a photo attached to an email that has nothing to do with the site. That way, they can’t prove any connection between you and the site. (Yes, I know, my face is on FetLife and everywhere else. But I’m pretty much out. There’s no way to blackmail me — I don’t have an office job, I don’t have family, I don’t have kids.)
Don’t webcam with people you don’t know. I can’t say this enough.
Don’t reveal your personal information unless you get some from them as well. And even then, proceed with caution. If someone’s behavior is suspicious or strange to you, trust your instincts. Better safe than sorry.
If you meet someone for the first time in a public place, park offsite and walk a little ways. That way, they will not see your car. If they have access to your license plate, they have access to you.
If God forbid you should find yourself in the same situation John did, here are some resources.
1. The IC3 (Internet Crime Complaint Center).
2. Cyber Investigation Services (CIS).
3. If you need a lawyer, and you would like a KAP (Kink Aware Professional), you can check out the NCSF (National Coalition for Sexual Freedom) site. They are a resource of professionals (attorneys, doctors, therapists, etc.) who are familiar with the world of kink and the laws that pertain to it.
4. John’s harasser was not local, so that makes it much more difficult to track her down and arrest her. However, if you are being harassed, threatened or blackmailed locally, you can contact Data Chasers.
I hope no one we know will have to experience the sick and helpless fear that John had to deal with. It’s been a rough time — I think we both got this bug because our defenses were down due to stress. This, on top of the damn holidays and worrying about all the other existing issues. And last but not least, I came home from the weekend to find out I’d lost my best and most regular client.
Not having a good time, folks. Really, really not. Steve is coming by to visit me later this afternoon. I can’t play, but I sure could use a hug.
Take care, everyone. Play safe, be mindful. Please hold a good thought that John has indeed heard the last of this woman. And to the friends who took the time to give words of comfort, encouragement and advice to John (and y’all know who you are), a most heartfelt thank you.
Good grief. Sending you both best wishes in the face of such appalling treatment.
The ways people find to try and hurt others is disgusting and always baffling to me. Sorry you have had to worry about this, and thank you for sharing so we don't have to endure the same fear. Feel better soon.
Erica, here is a big HUG, from me. And I am sure all of us 'spanko's are in your corner, after reading your latest blog, will give you the same. You are a feisty fighter, for the rights of all us 'spanko's. And I am sure you will come out a winner in this one too. XXX Luv ya
Thank you for posting this Erica. I'm so sorry the two of you are going through this. Hug John for me. And have him hug you.
This is incredibly apalling.
Best wishes in all respect. Acept my hugs and feel better soon ;-))
Thanks for sharing, Erica. This kind of situation is so troubling because we all can imagine ourselves in that situation. Many of us are out to family and friends, but most likely aren't out at work, so this is certainly a squirm-inducing story we all can relate to. Your advice is heeded and most appreciated.
Please give John our best. Both myself and Lizzie are thinking best thoughts for you both.
That's a really awful story, Erica. I do hope she fades away at this point. But hugs for both of you.
Hi Erica, I am sorry that both are having to deal with this. I'm also sorry for cross-posting my reply from FetLife, but I know some of your readers aren't on there, and I have some information I'd like to add for people's safety considerations. I would never kibitz like this if it weren't a safety issue.
I went through something similar, only she wasn't in it for the money; she was an unbalanced person who took it all very personally. When I say unbalanced, I mean she defined the world around her in terms of “the mean people who want to hurt me,” and once you come into contact with someone like that you will inevitably become one of those “mean people.”
Not yet knowing she was unbalanced, I took all the proper precautions, with one small brain fart – I forgot to *67 before I called her, and that's how she got through my defences. Once she had my phone number, she had the ability to destroy me unless I gave her what she wanted and she damn well tried to when I pulled away from her. The only thing that saved my @$$ is that I was already out to 96% of the people she outted me to and the other 4% had already heard rumours. Regrettably, when the outing failed, she took it to the next level.
Be aware that websites like MyLife have your info whether you've given it to them or not. Even if you don't have an account there, they have your info. I found that out because for about a year after my bad experience, I kept getting e-mails from MyLife telling me that someone with my stalker/outters name was searching for me on the website. I'd never heard of MyLife, and when I went there to see what it was all about I found they had not just my information, but information on everyone in my household as well as extended family members. She used that information to target members of my family, which included a minor who at the time was under the age of 10.
Once a crazy person or a romance scammer gets just a sliver of your info, they can find out everything else very quickly.
You and John are in my thoughts and I'm sending positive energy your way. I wish I was out there and could take you both to dinner and a show or something to try and cheer you up.
How scary!! There are certainly some slimey people out there! Hopefully you'll not hear from this person again, but still! What a horrible thing to be faces with!
I've always used pseudonyms or initials when signing up for emails, and also have multiples for kink and vanilla contacts!
Abel — thank you so much.
Pam — you know, for these people, it isn't even about hurting. It's a business. A horrible business.
Six — thank you. I could use those hugs. Steve didn't make it after all.
Mija — unfortunately, I won't see John until Friday. But I will certainly pass on your hug. Thanks.
MrJ — thank you.
Craig — squirm-inducing is a good term for it. Thank you for your care.
HH — I sure hope so too.
Chief — you're very kind. No need to apologize for repeating the message here. I'm so sorry that happened to you. When it's personal, it's even worse, I think. 😦
Sarah — I think that's the way to go. I never thought about it before, but email is a common pitfall. So obvious, and yet not.
Thank you for putting this up, Erica. You have done many a great service. I am so sorry you and John had to deal with that creep and I hope it never happens again. I made a change to make things a bit safer for me because of this and I plan on making some more. We can't be too sure of things anymore.
Bobbie Jo — no, we can't. I hope I've been able to help someone else avoid this.
Wow, that's really horrible. Thinking of you two and hoping it has blown over.
Scary. Thanks for sharing this with us.
Hope you are feeling a little better today.
Hugs for both of you.
Sandy — that's our hope as well.
Ronnie — a little bit, thanks. Still a bit shaky and tired, but I'm up and about.
Hi Erica – Hope you feel better soon.Poor John he doesn't deserve this 😦 It makes me sick,how some people treat others,This woman is a greedy selfish Bitch,You and John don't need the added stress 😦 So sorry this happened to him.I hope that skanky woman is gone for good,the crook that she is.Thanks for sharing the resources,It will come in handy if anyone should need help.Sending much Love and hugs to you and John 🙂 I back you both up 100% From naughty girl Jade
I am well aware that you do not like Christmas very much if at all. Now to add this to December is just going to make it worse – I hope this is over and John is safe. I agree with Maji – You both need lots of hugs. Hal
Jade — I think he will be OK. We're holding good thoughts, and each day that goes by where he doesn't hear from her makes us feel a little better.
Hal — thanks.
Thanks for writing this, Erica. I like Fetlife, but in the past I've found several of the threads concerning privacy and “place” irritating. For example, there's almost a resentment or distrust of people who use “Anarctica” as a place. I've always felt that listing Anarctica as a place was honest in the sense of “I'm not going to tell you where I'm from immediately, but I'm also not going to lie which I could do easily by using a more realistic but wrong location.”
I've also felt privacy concerns were sometimes trivialized in the following way: you shouldn't worry about divulging your kinky side to someone you know on Fetlife because if they're here, they're also kinky. The problem is that this seems to ignore the fact that there isn't always an equal balance on what one person vs. another has to lose if their kinkiness is made public.
Anyway, thanks for your post and I'm wishing John privacy (and less wacky contacts) in the future.
Anonymous — you know what's really weird? I posted this on FetLife as well… it created a freaking tsunami. I've gotten over 1000 loves and nearly 300 comments, and they're still coming. Most of them are “thank you.” Go figure, huh? I know what you mean, though. The problem with being discreet on a kinky site is that people tend to automatically assume you have something to hide, or you're not really who you say you are. (sigh) It's a tough call.
You and John have my sympathy. You know me but I am anonymous now due to having a similar experience. I was outed and not for money but by an unhinged person just because it pleased her. I read you (and other friends from my previous life) very often. I lost a lot , my home, my job but I moved, found a new job and rebuilt. I do not think I can ever be me online again. I am glad you wrote this as a warning to others.
Anonymous — what a dreadful story. I'm so sorry that happened to you. 😦 What the hell is it with people??
I have only one thing to say:
What a Bitch!
Love to you and John,
Oh, and a little PS: If you'd like some help tracking HER down, just let me know. She probably has some things she'd not like shared either.
How awful for both of you. It's like your worst nightmare coming true. The advice you have given will probably save others from a similar fate.
I can't tell you how many emails I have received from spankos who display their real names in the email. Mine did too, when I first set up my blog's email account. Luckily, the first email I sent went to someone trustworthy, and as soon as I saw what I had done, I figured out how to change the name to Hermione.
I hope you are both feeling safer now.
Hugs to you both,
Dana — thanks, sweetie. Yes indeed, she is.
Hermione — it's been three weeks, so we do feel like it's safe now (safe being relative, of course).
That is just aweful and hideous, good lord.
Hope it all sorts out.
Ron — it seems to have blown over, thank goodness.