Social network blackmail schemes are on the rise, but nowhere have they become more malicious than in the east African nation of Ghana, where gay Internet community members are being trapped, kidnapped and robbed, often with the aid of the police.
Homosexuality in Ghana is a felony offense, which has put the country’s gay population in a particularly vulnerable position on the Internet–its anonymity provides the only place they can communicate openly, but it also creates an opportunity for exploitation. According to several tourism sites, Ghana’s Internet cafes are full of teams of boys learning to “chat gay” to entrap both locals and foreign tourists. Once they arrange to meet a victim in person, they use the threat of arrest or physical abuse to extort money and possessions. (Scams often use photos, below, to entrap unwitting victims. Courtesy of Fakers2Go.)
A gay and lesbian organization out of Kenya is attempting to understand the scope of the problem by surveying victims. The organization says that extortioners often steal as much as $25,000 USD, but the amounts are frequently as little as $5 or $10. As many as 98% of the members of gay sites and chat networks in Ghana do not rank above a rating of 3 on the Kinsey Scale of Human Sexuality, suggesting that the actual gay population on these sites is a mere 2%.
A site called Fakers2Go is trying to combat the problem by exposing repeat offenders, their photos and their profiles.