Snapchat introduces new measures to prevent sextortion


New features include expanded in-app warnings, enhanced friending protections, and blocking capabilities.

Scammers are taking to popular social networks like Snapchat and Instagram to exploit their victims in a financial scam called sextortion.

Sextortion happens when scammers pretend to be someone else, usually a woman, and trick teens into sending them naked pictures or videos. After that, scammers start threatening to send the material to a victim's family and friends unless they get paid.

Last year, confirmed sextortion cases more than doubled to 26.700 cases in the US, while in the past two years, it has been linked to 27 deaths, BBC reports.

However, due to the sensitive nature of these crimes, many of them have not been reported.

To address sextortion issues, Snapchat owner Snap announced new measures to prevent scammers from contacting teenagers and to raise awareness of these scams.

Last year, the company introduced pop-up warnings when teens received messages from someone they didn't share mutual friends with or have in their contacts. Now, Snap is expanding in-app warnings to incorporate new signals.

Teens will see a warning message if they receive a chat from someone who has been blocked, or reported by others, or is from a region where the teen's network isn't typically located, the company says.

Another measure used by Snapchat to combat sextortion is enhanced friendship protections.

Snap says it will prevent delivery of a friend request altogether when teens send or receive a friend request from someone they don't have mutual friends with. This will also occur if the person sending the request has a history of accessing the social network in locations often associated with scamming activity. For example, many sextortion scams originate from people located in Nigeria.

Snap will also send regular reminders to all users to check their account security and privacy settings, while simplified location-sharing should make it easier for users to customize which of their friends can see their location.

In addition, the company introduced advanced blocking. Sometimes, bad actors create new accounts and continue to try to contact people who have blocked them. From now on, blocking a user will also block new friend requests sent from other accounts created on the same device.