If a lusty young Italian lady offers to show you a good time on Skype, you may want to seek out other means of entertainment. Italian police have received a number of complaints about women who sexually entertain men on Skype for free, then claim to be underage and demand hush money.
The IDG news service reported the story, which indicates that the incidents may be related. The Italian police have investigated 11 complaints and determined that four women are behind all of them. The women may be tied to a single male orchestrator elsewhere in Europe.
The scam begins on Facebook, Badoo or Chatroulette, where the women pick out their targets and develop friendships with them. Over time, the conversation and behavior become more and more sexual, until the women invite the men onto Skype for some fun of a more personal nature.
After the Skype shenanigans, the scammers get in touch with their victims again, and claim to be under 18. They then threaten to make the Skype videos public unless their targets cough up compensation to the tune of 500 euros ($693).
Interestingly, the victims do not appear to have anything in common. The scammers have targeted men of all ages and from all walks of life. The only thing that matters to them appears to be whether the victim has 500 euros to cover up a potentially embarrassing — or even illegal — sex scandal.
It's worth pointing out that, in all likelihood, the scammers are not underage. If they were, they could get in considerable trouble themselves for performing sex acts for an audience. Furthermore, the age of consent in Italy is 14, not 18, for both sex and sexual performances.
A 17-year-old might be tough to differentiate from an 18-year-old, but a 13-year-old is usually not. Even on the off chance that the women were under 14, Italian law allows ignorance of a partner's age as a limited legal defense, unless the victim is under 10. A 13-year-old scammer could still win such a case, but not before a pitched legal battle; hardly worth a 500 euro payoff.
Furthermore, trying to extort money is a serious legal offense, which puts the scammers clearly on the wrong side of the law. The punishment for such cases ranges from 1000 euros ($1387) in fines to 10 years in prison.
Citizens of the rest of the world should take care as well: this method of blackmail is not limited to Italy. Police have reported similar cases from Singapore, England and New Zealand. Many more cases probably go unreported, since the embarrassed victims pay up instead of calling the authorities.
Still, the hassle hardly seems worth it. Thrill-seekers on Skype are probably better off with people they know — or professional actresses who request payment up-front.