Delhi: Cyber crooks stealing, morphing social media photos to extort victims

Cases of crooks stealing online photos, morphing them and uploading them on porn sites to extort money are on the rise in the capital city.

A class-12 student of South Delhi was shocked to find her pornographic video online, the link of which was shared by an anonymous user on chat demanding money to delete it. Preliminary investigation revealed that her picture was copied from a social media site and was later morphed to extort money.

According to cyber crime experts, such crimes are on the soar. Previously jilted lovers or grieved acquaintances did so for revenge, but now organised gangs commit such crimes as they consider this as a source of easy money. Victims in such cases refrain from filing complaints as they do not want to make it public.

"We are investigating a case where a girl, who had limited friends on Facebook and WhatsApp, became a victim of photo stealing and morphing. We found that she had a secured profile and her images could not be accessed by anyone but her friends. Detailed investigation revealed that online tools, like photo extractor, can easily steal secured images," explained Kislay Chaudhary, a cyber crime expert who is assisting several state governments in cases related to cyber crime.

Despite the fact that victims often pay Rs 1-7 lakh, perpetrators do not delete links online. Many fall prey to extortion, in fear of social stigma.


"Cyber criminals initially focused only on financial frauds. Stealing and morphing pictures are new. Criminals upload morphed pictures on porn websites and then demand money to delete the link. Once they get the money, they deactivate their social media account to avoid getting caught," said a senior officer in crime branch of Delhi Police.

Mail Today had earlier reported that several Facebook profiles and pages are engaged in copying pictures of girls from Facebook albums only to misuse them. Indian hackers found out that the followers of some such pages with explicit content are equipped with cameras and smartphones.

Beside stealing pictures, the followers flash them in public and send them to the administrators of these pages.

Last year, a foreign national contacted cyber security experts in India, complaining that an Indian youth had been blackmailing her with some morphed pictures of hers and demanding $100 (Rs 6,779 approx) per month.

Investigators tracked him to Kurukshetra and found nearly 1,800 photographs on his mobile phone that he used to blackmail his targets.

The man was eventually let free as the victim did not lodge an official complaint.

During interrogation, the accused revealed that he used a free mobile application to morph the pictures and then used it as a tool to extort money from the victims.


According to experts, such crimes have become a way to "earn easy bucks". Cyber crime experts also claim that there are people who sell pictures of Indian girls to international criminals, who further use it on international porn sites and sex chat networks.

"There are many websites and web tools available for professional editing. But basic morphing can be easily done on free mobile app available on play store," said a senior police officer.

Delhi has seen a steady rise in complaints related to such cases, but there have been a few breakthroughs as well.

"To crack such cases we need the IP address of the criminal and details of his log to track him down. It can be only furnished by the service providers. We repeatedly write to them and pursue the matter but reply from their end is rare," senior officer of Delhi Police Cyber Crime Cell said.

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