Dating websites, such as Plenty of Fish (pof.com), have become popular breeding grounds for sextortionists, blackmailers, and other individuals with sinister intentions—which means you should be on your guard against potential scammers. If you are the target of sextortion on Plenty of Fish (POF), we recommend taking the following actions as soon as possible:
- Do not panic,
- Stop all communication with the sextortionist and do not give in to their demands,
- Preserve all evidence of the sextortion attempt, including the sextortionist’s POF profile,
- Set all of your social media and dating profiles to private and block the sextortionist,
- Report the scam to Plenty of Fish by clicking the three dots at the top of the sextortionists profile and selecting ‘Report Profile’, filling out their contact form, or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org,
- Report the scam to the proper law enforcement authorities and cybercrimes agencies such as the Internet Crimes Complaint Center (IC3), and
- Consult with an experienced internet sextortion attorney.
Being targeted by a sextortionist on Plenty of Fish can be overwhelming and isolating. At Minc Law, we have encountered extortion in all its forms, and we can take the burden of responding to the sextortionist off your shoulders. We can form an effective response plan to identify perpetrators, work with you to report their crimes to the platform and appropriate authorities, and end the attacks as quickly and quietly as possible.
In this article, we explain what sextortion is and how it typically takes place on dating websites. Then, we give you actionable advice for responding to a sextortion attempt on Plenty of Fish.
What is Sextortion?
The increased popularity of online dating and social media has caused sextortion to blossom in the last decade. Now, sextortion is a devastating and widespread practice on dating websites and over social media.
In this section, we define sextortion and how to identify it.
What is Sextortion & Who is Affected By It?
Like its parent term “extortion,” sextortion (short for sexual extortion) is a serious crime. A sextortionist threatens to publish or share explicit material about you if you do not do what they want—usually paying money, sending explicit images, or performing sexual favors.
Sextortion is also referred to as:
Who Are the Predators Typically Behind Sextortion & How Do They Find Their Victims?
Unlike other forms of extortion, the typical perpetrator of sextortion is on the other side of the world from their victim. At Minc Law, we have found that most sextortion scammers operate out of the following countries:
- The Philippines,
- The United States.
- Côte d’Ivoire (The Ivory Coast),
- Ukraine, and
Sextortionists usually find victims via social media websites, dating websites and apps, and email phishing scams.
For further reading on sextortionists located overseas, make sure to read our comprehensive guide explaining how to combat Philippine sextortion scams.
How Does Sextortion Differ From Other Forms of Extortion?
Sextortion is a subcategory of extortion. Extortion is a broader term that involves threatening to reveal embarrassing or damaging content. What makes sextortion unique is that it involves a threat to reveal intimate or sexual content if the perpetrator’s demands are not met.
However, not all sextortionists use sexually graphic photos or videos to extort their victims. Some perpetrators use something as minor as a flirtatious text thread, which would still be compromising to a victim in a monogamous relationship.
Why Should You Be Concerned About Sextortion?
Sextortion is a serious crime with the potential to cause catastrophic effects in the victim’s life—especially if not handled quickly and effectively.
Victims who are overwhelmed with fear and embarrassment may take rash actions out of panic, like emptying their savings to pay off the sextortionist. Actions like these can cause financial ruin while failing to stop the harassment.
The Prevalence of Sextortion Scams Online
Unfortunately, sextortion is a growing trend. In the first half of 2021 alone, the International Crime Complaint Center (IC3) reported receiving over 16,000 sextortion complaints, with losses exceeding $8 million.
This number represents two-thirds of the romance scam reports in the previous year alone.
How to Spot Sextortion Scams on Plenty of Fish
It can be tough to identify a potential sextortionist on Plenty of Fish—but if you look closely, you may be able to pick up on a few red flags. Below, we explore the most common signs of a Plenty of Fish sextortion scam and the ways your profile may make you more vulnerable.
How Can Your Dating Profile Photos Give Away Sensitive Info?
A potential romance scammer may be able to glean a lot of useful information about you just by reviewing your dating profile. They may be able to gain your trust through learning enough about you to construct a fake persona that they know you will be drawn to. Such information can include:
- Your name, age, and general location, which can help them do a wider internet search for information about you;
- Personal information about you including your interests and hobbies, the names and breeds of your pets, and whether you are a parent;
- Your occupation, educational background, and financial status—especially if you post pictures displaying a lavish lifestyle;
- Your sexual preferences, which may be used against you—for example, if you are part of the LGBTQ+ community and have not come out publicly;
- Pictures and videos of you; and
- Whether you are in an emotional or vulnerable state, such as being newly single or divorced.
We recommend omitting or obscuring as much of the above information as possible on your dating profiles. For instance, you can choose to hide your last name on your public profile, which helps protect your privacy.
What Are the Telltale Signs You Are Communicating With a POF Sextortionist?
Sextortion scammers on dating and social media apps tend to follow a pattern. Most of them have the same goal—to convince you to reveal explicit content they can save and use to extort you later—and many operate from overseas.
Therefore, you can generally use the following red flags to spot a sextortionist of Plenty of Fish:
They Seem Too Good to Be True
Does the profile in question seem perfect, with attractive photos and generic profile information? It is easy for scammers to create completely fabricated accounts, so take everything you see on dating apps with a grain of salt.
One way to test the authenticity of dating app profiles is to conduct reverse image searches on their photos. Many dating app scammers steal photos from other real accounts, stock photo sites, or other websites.
Their Messages Seem to Be Translated From Another Language
Many sextortionists operate outside of the U.S. and English is not their first language. Some rely on simple translation apps to speak to their victims, so if their messages seem translated, scripted, or otherwise difficult to understand, this may be a red flag.
Their Messages Are Overtly Sexual or Flirty From the Start
Are they moving quickly from introductory messages to flirtatious or sexual conversations? Remember that sextortionists try to trick you into sending them explicit content that they can use to extort you, so it makes sense that they would try to cut to the chase as soon as possible.
They Try to Move Your Conversation from POF to Another App
Plenty of Fish is a great place for sextortionists to find victims, but it is not the best medium for their sextortion schemes. Many scammers suggest moving the conversation away from Plenty of Fish to another, better-encrypted app like WhatsApp or Skype.
They usually suggest a video call with the promise of exposing themselves if you do too. They often play stolen or pre-recorded videos to lull you into a false sense of security. At the end of the call, they inform you that they have recorded the interaction and will send the video to your friends and family unless you pay them.
How Do You Spot Sextortion Scams on Plenty of Fish?
A sextortion scam on Plenty of Fish usually falls into one of two common scenarios.
Most frequently, the scammer convinces their victims to send compromising content. The scammer then threatens to publish that content if the victim does not pay a ransom. In the other common scenario, the scammer claims that the victim sent explicit content to an underage recipient.
Standard POF.com Sextortion Scenario
Much like sextortion on social media platforms, the most common sextortion scenario on Plenty of Fish starts with an attractive (but fake) profile. The sextortionist starts a private message with their victim, quickly moving into conversations of a flirtatious and sexual nature. They eventually lull their victim into sending compromising messages, images, and/or videos.
After recording that material, the scammer threatens to release that compromising information to the victim’s friends and family—or just publish the content online—unless the victim meets their demands.
The Underage Scam
This scenario begins much like the standard scenario above. But once the victim has sent explicit images or messages, the scammer claims that the victim was interacting with a minor, then threatens to bring the case to the police if the victim does not pay.
Since 2020, The Daily Scam has collected testimony from several victims of “underage girl sext” scams. In these victims’ experiences, the scammer called pretending to be an angry father and demanded money for his daughter’s therapy. If their message was ignored, the scammer often called again in the guise of a private investigator.
You can learn more (and listen to examples of these scammers’ voicemails) in this Daily Scam article.
What Steps Should You Take to Protect Yourself From POF Sextortion Scams?
No one is immune from being targeted by scammers on Plenty of Fish and other dating sites. If you are active on the platform, you may be approached by a sextortionist who attempts to trick you into revealing explicit content.
To protect yourself as much as possible, remember the following tips:
- Be wary of new connections online;
- Do not interact with online strangers while in a vulnerable emotional state—such as after a messy breakup or after a few drinks;
- Do not be too willing to move conversations away from Plenty of Fish;
- Avoid sending intimate images or videos of yourself; and
- Trust your gut. If something feels off, it probably is.
Steps to Take if You Are a Victim of Sextortion on Plenty of Fish
When you are the victim of a sextortionist, it can be stressful, humiliating, and hard to know where to turn. In this section, we explain what to do (and what NOT to do) if you are being targeted by a scammer on Plenty of Fish.
What Should You Avoid Doing if You Have Been the Victim of Sextortion on POF?
There are a few reactions that may feel natural or logical, but that you should avoid at all costs, including:
- Acting out of panic,
- Communicating with the sextortionist,
- Giving in to the scammer’s demands, and
- Doing “damage control” by releasing the compromising content yourself.
1. Acting Out of Panic
It is completely natural to be alarmed by a sextortion attempt. These scams are often successful because victims panic and immediately give in to the perpetrator’s demands out of fear. Instead, take a deep breath and consider all of your options.
2. Communicating With the Sextortionist
It may feel counterintuitive, but you should cut off all engagement with the perpetrator. The more you communicate with them and reply to their threats, the more they will pester you.
3. Giving in to the Scammer’s Demands
When a scammer threatens you with catastrophic consequences if you do not pay them, you may feel backed into a corner. It can feel like the only way out is to give in to the sextortionist’s demands—but that is not the case.
In fact, meeting their demands only shows that you can be manipulated. There is no guarantee paying them once will make the problem go away. And the more money or sexual images you give them, the more tangled in their web you become.
4. Doing “Damage Control” Unless Absolutely Necessary
Because the scammer is threatening to release compromising images of you to your family and friends, you may want to mitigate the damage by giving them your version of the story first. But in many sextortion cases, the perpetrator never follows through on their threats.
In other cases, you may be able to resolve the situation before the sextortionist releases the images—especially if you have an attorney’s help. So preemptively doing “damage control” may be unnecessary.
For further information on sextortionists and how they behave, we recommend reading our comprehensive guide answering a common question we receive, ‘Do sextortionists follow through?’
What Steps Should You Take if You Are the Target of POF Sextortion?
While there are actions you should not take when responding to a sextortionist, you should take a few steps immediately to stop the harasser and mitigate the damage they cause. We recommend taking the following actions as quickly as possible:
Preserve All Evidence & Profiles
First, save documentation of all communication you have had with the scammer. Take screenshots of their Plenty of Fish profile, messages they sent you, and any other proof you have of the sextortion attempt.
You may be tempted to edit out the more embarrassing messages, but resist this urge. Documenting the encounter as thoroughly as possible will increase the chances that an attorney or law enforcement agency resolves the situation effectively.
Set All of Your Social Media Accounts to Private
As soon as you receive threatening messages online, it is always best to lock down all of your online profiles. This includes maximizing the privacy settings on your social media profiles like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. The less information about you that is publicly available, like your contact information and social circle, the harder it will be for scammers to harass you.
You can also hide your Plenty of Fish account by navigating to your profile settings and selecting “Hide my profile.” This setting means your profile will no longer appear in other POF users’ search results—but keep in mind that this only works for users with whom you have not already communicated.
If you have sent a message to a user, they can still send you messages even if your account is hidden. So, we also recommend blocking the sextortionist—but since blocking them will permanently delete the records of your messages, you should take thorough screenshots first.
You can block a user by:
- Opening the conversation,
- Clicking the three vertical dots on the top right of the screen, and
- Selecting ‘Block This Person’ (on iOS) or ‘Block User’ (on Android) from the menu.
Report the Scam to POF
Sextortion is a violation of the Plenty of Fish terms of service. You can report sextortion to the platform by:
- Clicking on the three dots at the top of their profile, then
- Selecting ‘Report Profile’ (on iOS), or
- ‘Report User’ (on Android).
You can also report concerns about suspicious user behavior directly to Plenty of Fish by using their contact form or emailing email@example.com.
Report the Sextortionist to Cybercrime Agencies & Authorities
Since sextortion is a crime, you may also want to report the situation to a local or national agency that handles cybercrime. Such agencies include:
- Your local Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Field Office. You can contact the field office nearest to you, call 1-800-CALL-FBI, or report it online at tips.fbi.gov.
- Internet Crimes Complaint Center (IC3). The IC3 is a division of the FBI dedicated to internet crimes. You can fill out a short form to make an IC3 complaint.
- Your local law enforcement. If you have reason to believe the perpetrator is in the U.S. and nearby, your local police may have a cyber crimes unit to help you. Or, for international crimes, your local law enforcement can report the case to INTERPOL for you.
- National Center For Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). This agency is a nonprofit database, tipline, and resource center for missing and exploited children. If you or the sextortion victim is underage, you can make a report through their cyber tipline.
Consult an Experienced Internet Sextortion Attorney
Sextortion is a serious crime that can cause great stress and anxiety. If you are being targeted and harassed by a sextortionist on Plenty of Fish, an experienced internet attorney can be an invaluable resource. They can give you seasoned, objective advice about your options and help you respond to the sextortion quickly and efficiently.
Will a Sextortionist on POF Know if I Reported Them?
If you make a report to Plenty of Fish about a sextortion attempt, you can rest assured that the perpetrator will not know who reported them. The platform keeps reports anonymous—and if they ban a user, the platform does not give them specific information about why they were banned.
How an Online Extortion Lawyer Can Help Victims Of Sextortion
If you are a victim of sextortion on Plenty of Fish, you should reach out to an experienced internet attorney immediately. Do not wait until you have already paid a ransom to reach out for help.
This section explains how an online extortion lawyer can help you, and how to find legal representation for your case.
How Can an Online Extortion Lawyer Help Victims of Sextortion?
Given the widespread prevalence and global nature of the internet, many internet sextortion scams originate overseas and affect parties located across international borders. This presents significant logistical challenges in bringing the perpetrators to justice.
An experienced online extortion attorney can be indispensable in difficult situations like these. They can provide objective legal advice and inform you of all your options.
For instance, your first instinct may be to contact law enforcement—but in some cases, you may not wish to make a public record of something you would rather keep private. An attorney can advise you on the next steps you should take to handle the sextortionist successfully.
Our experienced team at Minc Law is well-versed in communicating with the perpetrator and putting a stop to threats. We know how to stop sensitive content from being published, report sextortionists to the appropriate platforms and authorities, and hold extortionists accountable for their actions.
We can also utilize online reputation management tactics to protect your reputation and monitor the web for future attacks.
How to Find Trustworthy & Experienced Sextortion Attorneys to Help With POF Sextortion
When beginning the search for a reliable sextortion attorney, you can narrow down your search by:
- Asking your coworkers, friends, and family for personal recommendations,
- Checking with your local bar association,
- Conducting a Google search with keywords like “online sextortion lawyer + [your state]”, and
- Searching legal databases like Avvo, Martindale-Hubbell, and Lawyers.com.
To find the right fit for you, check their website to be sure they specialize in reputation management and online harassment law. Also, check their website for resources for dealing with online extortion, sextortion, and online harassment. Look for knowledgeable articles that demonstrate the attorney’s experience in handling cases like yours.
We Can Help Take Control of Plenty of Sextortion Scams
At Minc Law, we have extensive experience taking control of communications with sextortionists on popular dating apps and social media websites.
We provide objective advice on how to effectively handle the situation without drawing unwanted attention to the matter, work with relevant platforms to swiftly report scammers, and in some cases, stop the release of intimate images and media. In cases where intimate images and videos are published to the internet, we can help remove them.
“Michele Simonelli recently helped me with an sextortion case. Due to the escalating nature of the situation, she promptly moved a previously scheduled meeting forward, and took immediate action to help mitigate the threat. As anyone facing these type situations knows, it’s extraordinarily agonizing, and one cannot even think logically. Michele was reassuring, and extremely responsive to my texts and phone calls, and also appeared non-judgemental. There’s no way to know the outcome had I not used her services, however, the backing of her and the firm gave me enough confidence/hope to get through the situation, with what appears to be a successful outcome. Thank you Michele for your professionalism, responsiveness and kindness! I highly recommend this firm and particularly Michele.”
August 18, 2022
We offer paid sextortion consults with a Minc Law sextortion attorney for $500. To schedule your sextortion consultation, call us at (216) 373-7706, fill out our contact form, or speak with a Chat representative.