Sextortion and the SF86

I found this post to be useful in describing steps to be taken for victims of sextortion scams who are current clearance holders:

However, clearance holders are not the only people victimized by these schemes. How does an affected person applying for an initial clearance document the incident properly on the SF-86?

What specific concerns should be mitigated, and how?

Hypothetical example:

Suppose an unmarried, unattached man using a legitimate online dating site (e.g. okaycupid) was contacted by a woman with an apparently legitimate profile, and responded intelligently to conversation prompts (seemingly ruling out the possibility of a bot). The woman then requests the man to talk over Skype, and believing the risk for exposure to be minimal due to reciprocity, the man performs sexual acts (e.g. masturbation) for the woman (who was likewise masturbating).

The woman then demonstrates that some pictures were collected, locates the man’s Facebook profile, and threatens to harass friends with pictures from a fake profile setup in the man’s likeness. The man, being untrained in how to respond in such situations, then pays an initial ransom ask for a few hundred dollars (which he can afford without exposing himself financially) in good faith to a Western Union account in the Philippines, hoping the offending party would relent. The man refuses further ransom attempts, informs the woman he would save all details of recorded contact and payment, and would not hesitate in reporting the activity to the appropriate US authorities if any further contact was made to either the man, or any acquaintance.

Thoughts on case:

The man should formally file the case with the FBI’s IC3 department, report the financial information provided as a “close contact” on the SF86, explain the details of the case, note any similar past incidents (or lack thereof), refer to the submission of the details of the case to the FBI, detail any steps taken to prevent a likelihood of occurrence, and cross-reference the event on the “have you EVER provided financial support to foreign national” question to the extent possible with the information available.

It seems obvious that this is the sort of event that absolution should be mentioned somewhere on the form, and creates some concerns to be mitigated. The hope is that self-reporting an incident which would perhaps not otherwise have been found during the investigation, in concert with the submission of evidence to the FBI, should mitigate the concern to the extent possible by displaying appropriate candor, and an unwillingness to let the information be used for blackmail again the future.

Thoughts and advice would be greatly appreciated by any affected parties, I am sure.

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Sadly this generation has challenges not encountered prior. Digital everything…is there forever. What you may do online as a freshman in high school…can haunt you decades later. I say that as a parent of a teen daughter. Millennials in general expose their bodies and freely explore sexuality on line and in public forums. We should have a reasonable expectation of privacy, but learn daily there is none on the web or using a computer. Every aspect of our lives is packaged and sold daily and we cannot opt out. All of our information is traded, bought and sold daily.

Sexual privacy makes us particularly vulnerable. If any is recorded…with the exception those working in the porn/sex industry (maybe), it can be held over our head and ransomed. It can be from a previous intimate relationship gone bad, an illicit affair, or freely dating as single men and women. It is as old a trick as there is. Get potentially compromising material, build a dossier, threaten to release if you do not get what you want. Once information or video is released they lose control, but your reputation can be in tatters. If you hold a clearance or position of high responsibility or public office, exposure can force you to do many things against your will. Perhaps sell or give classified material. I do like the idea of fully reporting situations such as this, sensitive as they are in a private investigative forum. It would require specially trained investigators, honor same gender requests, much like rape investigations have grown towards. The actual videos or pictures need not be shared but if a full enough accounting is given, any threat to release the information can be somewhat mitigated. A person with bad intent can and will still release these items, causing much grief and embarrassment to any of us. Revenge porn sites are fairly well known.

My client does require reporting of intimate contact with foreign nationals. I think this is the first step in allowing people to come forward and report potentially damaging info. It is a possible hedge against a future attempt at blackmail or espionage. We all know of the term honeytrap and I have no doubt some collection agencies would use them to entrap a person and compromise them.

As long as the video exists…our reputations are held in the balance. I would recommend just saying no to videoing these acts periods or skyping as you have no clue how the data is secured.

Tell that to anyone of this generation.

Thanks for you response. Good advice.

A follow up question, if you are willing to respond. If a candidate has no other significant derogatory information in their application and does as above, is there a significant chance they could be favorably adjudicated at least a secret clearance?

Absolutely. Even significant drug use and crime is overcome by time, as well as periods of bad credit. Being a victim of sextortion…male or female…you remain the victim. I think we will see growing incidents as the Millennial’s age into adulthood. If the situation were completely and professionally investigated and well documented, I do not see it as too big a problem. I think less digital age savvy folks are ripe for this type of “catfishing.” A pretty face (male or female) paying compliments, engaging…able to converse on all the topics you like…can make a person easy prey. You could immediately notify your responsible client Counter Intell office if ever approached for blackmail. This does force you to once again face the previous private behavior wrongly shared, but I think it mitigates the CI aspect. If it is purely criminal interest in exploiting you, like a boiler room “Nigerian” scam…once they realize they are not getting a rise they move on to the next potential victim, and unless you had a serious negative history with the person threatening you (such as a relationship gone bad) they likely have no personal stake in destroying you. They are in it for the money. Scam confidence artists can be quite convincing. Several never had access to any naughty personal pix yet are able to convince folks to send “more” of what they never had…in an effort to prevent sharing…now the bad guys have the private embarrassing photos, and they really have something over a victims head. Sometimes people keep embarrassing photos on their phone and a virus can steal them. So chances are if you have nudes…they are viewed by many of the apps on your phone that you granted permission to share your photos with when you wanted the worlds best flashlight.

Thanks! I believe your comments will help many people navigate this potentially tricky issue as best as possible!

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My heart goes out to you. Nobody, but nobody…save maybe a sex industry worker want their true vulnerable sexual selves recorded and out of their personal control. In the 80’s recording equipment became commonplace but there was no web. Once the cell phone revolution arrived and the web…and viruses and apps stealing data, and facebook sharing your pictures…and linking of personal and professional google accounts (look up something at home on your phone…see it in search history at work google computer…scary!) well…here we are. Ready or not. One can only hope most of what is posted by us or stolen and posted about us is lost in the digital noise of a Billion squared bits and bytes of data. Being a victim of a sexual crime means you never really get over it. You are a victim over and over again. The very best any of us can do is to get up, dust ourselves off and get back on the saddle again. And voraciously go after (legally) anyone threatening your personal sexual privacy again. Thank goodness laws are catching up to and protecting people regarding these recorded situations.

Thanks, and I agree! The world is trending in a direction where there is very little true privacy remaining, if any. This makes living a life truly beyond the possibility of risk particularly difficult for anyone not yet settled happily into a steady life. One wonders how the cleared industries will adapt to this circumstance going forward. For my part, I do not know.

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My daughters high school study group, consisting of male, female, unsure, questioning, and declared every variant possible…had numerous situations where they randomly shared nudes of themselves. Or they flashed body parts. One of them told me the pix disappear…and then we find out they do not and are recoverable. And who knows who grabs them before deleting on the phone? Perhaps it is so commonplace, there will be literal millions of photos and no interest because they are everywhere. But as each of us “age” into life and want normal work…digital info can come back to haunt us over and over again. Much like identity theft, build a solid file covering the entire event and follow up actions and keep it sealed with personal papers. Disclose it when in your best interest or threatened. Otherwise, keep it secure. Best to have and not need, instead of need and not have.