Sextortion targets cell phone users - CBS 5 - KPHO

Sextortion targets cell phone users

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PHOENIX (CBS5) -

If you're thinking about taking a provocative picture of yourself and sending it on your cell phone, you might want to reconsider.

Sextortion has become a serious problem, with crooks stealing those racy photos and putting them online.

ASU student Jill Madson, 19,  said that she will occasionally send racy photos to her boyfriend.

"It's just flirting," Madson said. "It's not like a serious topic. It's really in good fun."

However, Madson may be putting herself at risk by having those photos on her phone, authorities said.

Sextortion is exactly what it sounds like, sexual extortion and it's making it's way across the country.

Instead of stealing your identity crooks are zeroing in on those half-naked photos on your cell phone or e-mail.

But the crime doesn't stop there. Once a criminal gets your pictures, they'll call you up and threaten to post them on the Internet unless you send them more photos or cough up some cash.

Just recently, naked photos of Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson made their way onto the web.

The photos were taken on her smart phone.

It's a nightmare scenario that's also happening to real people.

A California man hacked into the computers of more than 100 women and teenage girls.

He threatened to put their sexually explicit photos online unless they provided him with more.

And a Florida man is serving a five-year sentence for blackmailing at least 19 women.

Ken Colburn with data Doctors said that stealing photos is as easy as just asking someone if you can borrow their phone.

"I could take your phone and within a minute or two rifle through your photographs, find one I like to get from you and text it to myself," said Colburn. "It would look like I was just using your phone and you wouldn't know I just text ed one of the photos."

Colburn suggests taking the same security precautions with your cell phone as you do with your home computer.

A company called Photo Safe has a free App  that allows you to encrypt photos on your smart phone.

They can only be accessed with a password.

And if you really want to guarantee you won't become a victim of sextortion, you can do what Madson has decided to do: Stop taking racy pictures all together.

"I would never want for those pictures to get out anywhere," said Madson. "That would be horrible.

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