Cyber Stalkers Drive French Kids to Suicide




Two French adolescents have committed suicide in separate incidents in recent months following cyber blackmail demands from unscrupulous criminals working out of cyber-cafés on the Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) and Morocco.

Cyber stalkers are said to be disproportionately based in these West African states

They are the latest in a growing number of French victims of cyber extortion apparently perpetrated from a ring of African states  that include French-speaking Côte d’Ivoire and Benin.

The cyber-café criminals are the latest incarnation of the infamous Nigerian “419” Advance Fee Fraud scam which together with its myriad variants has plagued the innocent, the gullible and the greedy for many years.

Initially they used faxes but the 491ers have, over the past decade, mutated into a massive Internet-based operation, causing headaches to international police authorities, Nigerian fraud suppression squads and Internet providers whose servers are spammed by millions of absurdly misleading messages daily.

Recently reports of two teenage suicides in France following blackmail attempts by criminals apparently based in Côte d’Ivoire and Morocco, have drawn the latest version of the scam — video blackmail — to public attention.

If you are in France and have been a victim of these frauds you can turn to this website www.internet-signalement.gouv.fr or call 0 811 020 217 (local rate call)

In the latest case an 18-year-old youth from Brest committed suicide following a sexual blackmail threat made through a false Facebook page. On October 10 the young man, identified only as Gautier ended his life after been blackmailed by a Côte d’Ivoire cyber cafe-based criminal masquerading as a girl. “She” persuaded him to swap nude pictures with “her” via a web cam and a Facebook page. The blackmailer then demanded Gautier transfer 200 euros by Western Union, the fraudsters’ favoured money moving channel, or face having his raunchy video pasted all over Facebook and other social networking sites.

The boy’s parents told the police they later found their son hanging from a tree in the garden, he subsequently died in hospital.

In a farewell SMS message to his parents he apologised and blamed himself for his “moment of madness”. Yet according to his parents Gauthier was a teenager without a history. Deeply concerned about what happened they decided to tell their tale to the local paper so as to warn other parents.

They described their son as “sociable, prudent, sensible, open-natured, well educated and well integrated into a healthy circle of friends”, yet Gauthier committed a desperate act and it all happened very quickly his mother told Brest’s Le Télégramme: “He came home from school early Wednesday afternoon and went up to his room with the laptop. As with all young people, his room is his world. I went up to talk to him at around 4pm but he asked me to leave him be. At 5pm, I saw him walk out, talking on his mobile. He looked rather distant. A half an hour later we  found him hanged in the garden, his body poised between life and death. Gauthier died a week later in hospital”.

Only when they examined his laptop did they uncover the full story. Gautier had been on the American-based website  “Chatroulette” , met a “girl” who tempted him with some very revealing pictures of herself, encouraged him to take part in an online nude video exchange (all set up and secretly recorded by the cyber-cafe crook) before been taken to a Facebook page on which the blackmailer threatened to expose him, sending a message  that said: “I have a porn video of you. If you do not give me 200 euros, I will destroy your life.” Desperate to preserve his reputation Gauthier committed suicide.

His parents laid a complaint against ‘persons unknown’ with local police and the initial investigation showed that the teenager had been trapped by someone using a computer in a Côte d’Ivoire cybercafe.

Favourite transfer channel for the West African scammers is Western Union

Earlier as Denis Trossero reported in LaProvence.com Cédric, 17, a promising  Marseille student set on becoming an astrophysicist, hanged himself in his room in September 2011 after being trapped by an Internet blackmailer.  His parents said Cédric had been a “little too boldly” involved on a chat site and believed he was chatting with a girl called Jennifer. She persuaded him to strip naked in front of his video-cam and a few hours later Cédric received a file with a compromising  image and a message, in poor French saying: “I swear, everyone will see your pretty naked video”. The affair changed Cédric for ever and five months later his parents found him hanged in his bedroom.

In a note he left behind he wrote: “I love you very much, but it is as if I have this Sword of Damocles over my head. This is my choice. I made a mistake. It haunts me, now I just cannot go on,” he wrote.  Detectives at the Sûreté de Marseille managed to trace the IP address of the other computer to Morocco, but drew a blank because of confidentiality of certain addresses and networks abroad.

 

Here are some websites and activists that either officially or as freelancers act against the scammers, spammers, crooks and fraudsters that abuse the Internet to catch unsuspecting users.

These sites specialise in taking what might be called retributive action” by scambaiting:
http://www.quatloos.com/brad-c/directory01.htm
http://www.419eater.com/
http://www.croque-escrocs.fr/

The CROQUE-ESCROCS website carries warnings and readers’ experiences

What users can do:

Visit this website — the Swiss army knife of IP addresses.
Track information on an IP address and find out where the 417 spam emails really came from.

Join or support AVEN Europe -the Association des Victimes d’Escroqueries à la Nigériane which warns: “The most prevalent scam right now is the Webcam scam coupled with blackmail. These trap their future victims on dating sites, in chatrooms, on social networks, lead them onto MSN webcam, ask them to undress and engage in sexual practices which they secretly film. Then posing as police they blackmail their victims by threatening to distribute the videos on YouTube.”

The site reports that: “According to Abidjan.net the anti-cybercrime police in Côte d’Ivoire estimate that so far Europeans have been defrauded of 14 billion CFA Francs (more than 21 million euro)by Internet scams and blackmail, making Côte d’Ivoire a leader in cyber crime. Police claim 59% of these thugs mostly Ivorians aged 12 to 25 years, can be found sitting for hours on end in local cyber cafes…”

AVENEUROPE has a page here with dozens of TV reports about various scams reported by French victims.

 

Story: Ken Pottinger
editorial@french-news-online.com

 

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