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Wolf’s personal computer was in her bedroom, and she learned that in order to remain safe, she should put tape over the camera.“He had footage of me undressing in my bedroom, and he continued to email me threats, saying he would post those photos online if I didn’t do what he asked,” Wolf says.
“The police advised me not to respond.”Four months after the initial email she received, the FBI arrested Jared James Abrahams, a 19-year-old student. State Attorney's office for the Central District of California, he may have hacked as many as 150 women.
Heather knew there were adults on the Internet who preyed on kids, and she regularly warned her own four children about the dangers of talking to strangers online.
Yet the 37-year-old married mom from Phoenix never thought she would ever fall victim to a growing Internet crime known as sextortion.
The perpetrator said that if she declined, he would release photos of Wolf undressing that he had obtained by hacking her webcam.
Heather became frightened and went to the police, but found they could offer her little in terms of help. He hacked into Heather’s Twitter account and began posting her images.“Some of my friends on Twitter began pushing back and threatening to expose Dan as a catfish,” Heather says.
He was charged with hacking into the computers of multiple women and obtaining webcam footage of them in various states of undress, without their consent or knowledge. Wolf didn’t know her perpetrator, who was sentenced to 18 months in prison, but she feels lucky she had her family’s support and didn’t give in to his demands.“I know one of the victims didn’t have anyone to talk with and tried to handle it on her own,” Wolf says.
“She felt she had no choice but to give in to his demands or have her photos spread across the Internet.”Carrie Goldberg, a Brooklyn, New York-based attorney who is considered a pioneer in the field of sexual privacy, sees many cases like Wolf’s.
Soon, she started connecting with other users, including Dan*, a 28-year-old entrepreneur who shared Heather’s love of music.“We were both big fans of The Who and our conversations started with banter about the band and evolved from there,” Heather says.
“I was upfront about being married, but Dan was smart and funny, and talking with him filled a void in my life.”It didn’t take long for Dan to move the conversation from the public Twitter timeline to communicating discreetly with Heather through private direct messages.
She says the primary motivation for perpetrators is a desire for control, and explains that victims often give in to extortion demands because they’re afraid of being shamed by their family, friends, or peers.“Typically, the ultimatum is the threat to embarrass [the victim] or expose humiliating information to the public,” she says.