GUEST ESSAY: Scammers leverage social media, clever con games to carry out digital exploitation

By Collin McNulty

One common misconception is that scammers usually possess a strong command of computer science and IT knowledge.

Related: How Google, Facebook enable snooping

In fact, a majority of scams occur through social engineering. The rise of social media has added to the many user-friendly digital tools scammers, sextortionists, and hackers can leverage in order to manipulate their victims.

Cybersecurity specialists here at Digital Forensics have built up a store of knowledge tracking criminal patterns while deploying countermeasures on behalf of our clients.

One trend we’ve seen in recent years is a massive surge in cases of sextortion. This online epidemic involves the blackmail of a victim by the perpetrator via material gained against them, typically in the form of nude photos and videos.

These sextortionists are some of the lowest forms of criminals, working tirelessly to exploit moments of weakness in their victims induced by loneliness and our most base-level human natures.

Since the dawn of civilization and economics, instances of fraud have always existed. Scholars have determined that the precursors of money in combination with language are what enabled humans to solve cooperation issues that other animals could not. The advancement of fraud has materialized parallel to that of currency.

Exploitation drivers

From the case of Hegestratos committing insurance fraud by sinking a ship in 300 B.C., to the Praetorian Guard selling the rights to the Roman throne in 193 AD, to the transgressions of Madoff and Charles Ponzi, fraud has always been embedded in society as a consequence of economics.

As technology has rapidly exceeded all historical imaginings, opportunities for fraudsters to exploit their victims abound. Digital exploitation refers to the abuse and manipulation of technology and the internet for illegal and unethical purposes, including identity theft, sextortion, cyberbullying, online scams, and data breaches.

The rise of digital exploitation has been a direct result of technological advancement and the widespread use of the internet in our daily lives.

Cybersecurity has similarly developed as a necessary countermeasure to prevent scammers from rampaging the privacies of citizens. Since fraudsters constantly seek new methods of exploitation, cybersecurity specialists are responsible for being identically innovative in anticipating future techniques of exploitation before they exist.

Modern measures of cybersecurity and digital forensics must not merely react to cases of fraud, but must proactively seek to exploit current systems as well in the aim of remaining vigilant against fraud-villains.

The success of digital exploitation can be attributed to several factors, including difficulty in keeping up with the latest security measures, increased reliance on technology and the internet, and a general lack of awareness and education about the dangers of the internet.


To address the issue of digital exploitation, it is essential to raise awareness and educate people about the dangers of the internet, and to continue to develop and implement strong security measures to protect personal information and sensitive data.


It may someday fall to the Federal government to deploy cybersecurity as a service such as community hubs or public utilities, but for the foreseeable future it falls upon private enterprises to assist clients suffering from a digital exploit in reclaiming their lives.

Digital Forensics experts are trained to follow digital footprints and track down IP addresses, cell phone numbers, email addresses, social media accounts and even specific devices used in these crimes. We can identify online harassers or extortionists with a high degree of success, arming clients with the evidence they need to confront a harasser, seek a restraining order or even press charges.

About the essayist: Collin McNulty is a content creator and digital marketer at Digital Forensics, a consultancy that works with law firms, governments, corporations, and private investigators

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