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.