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Revealed: How women are unknowing victims of so-called ‘eWhoring’ scams where their social media photos are stolen and sold in $15 ‘packs’ to fraudsters who use them on porn sites, escort agencies and fake profiles
- Influencer Jess Davies has spent years battling army of fake social media profiles
- Images have been used on internet to steal identity or impersonate other women
- Embarked on mission to discover why she was targeted new BBC documentary
- Discovered she was the victim of practice called ‘eWhoring’ used by scammers
An influencer whose images were stolen and used by fraudsters to sell sex online has uncovered the murky world of so-called ‘eWhoring’ in a new BBC documentary.
Former glamour model Jess Davies, 27, from Aberystwyth, Wales, discovers hundreds of her photos – including topless shots – are being traded in ‘packs’ on seedy websites for as little as $15.
The idea is that a complete ‘pack’ of images gives the scammer the library of images they need to impersonate a real person.
The investigation found that pictures of Jess were ‘all over the internet’, not just on fake media profiles, but on porn sites, web chat services and those used to advertise escorts.
On BBC Three documentary When Nudes Are Stolen, which airs tonight on BBC1, Jess explains how over the years she has heard from men who have been duped by catfish profiles using her images.
Jess Davies, 27, from Aberystwyth, Wales (pictured this year) began glamour modelling at the age of 18, and as part of her contract would have to take racy selfies to post on her magazine’s membership site
Despite giving up glamour modelling, the images posted on the website have been used to catfish men online all around the world without her consent
Jess met with cyber expert Scott McGready, who has been tracking eWhoring for years and said the ‘brutal’ practice is inherently ‘anti-women’, with scammers trading images ‘like they’re Pokemon cards or baseball cards’.
He explained entire online communities dedicated to the practice exist, teaching internet users how to gather the images, who to sell them to and the type of people who fall for the scam.
After visiting one of these forums, Jess sent a photo of herself and asked if she was recognised by any of the anonymous users, receiving a reply almost instantly telling her a pack of 100 images, stolen from her, was up for sale.
‘Seeing that message come through, I just feel gross that he recognised me,’ said Jess, ‘To know my images are being sold on eWhoring sites for $15 a pack, I think “wow you’re actually ruining my life for $15”.
Jess has spent years battling an army of fake social media profiles, used steal her identity or impersonate other women online
Jess, whose images were being used against her will to sell sex online, discovered that she was the victim of ‘eWhoring’ in a new BBC documentary
‘I think if you saw this happening in real life, in the market, people wouldn’t believe it but because its on the internet people don’t care, it’s fair game, it’s actually your fault.’
Jess began glamour modelling at the age of 18, and as part of her contract would have to take racy selfies to post on her magazine’s membership site, admitting that she ‘hated’ posing for the topless pictures.
Despite giving up glamour modelling, the images posted on the website have been used to catfish men online all around the world, in countries including the UK, Canada, Mexico, Italy, Spain, Australia, Finland and the Philippines.
‘Some of these men can be quite relentless,’ she said, ‘Some of them really crossed a line.
‘I’ve had people being really rude and send me abusive stuff because they’re angry or people love bombing me messaging me all the time. I’ve had to block people.’
What is ‘eWhoring’?
eWhoring refers to a type of online fraud in which cybercriminals impersonate people – mainly women – for financial gain.
Perpetrators will interact with users with the aim of selling misleading sexual material such as photographs or videos, or scam them out of money by making them believe they are in a relationship.
Several online communities dedicated to eWhoring have been created, with users sharing knowledge and packs of images and videos.
Jess had never felt comfortable enough to speak to any of them on the phone or in person because she feared opening herself up to even more abuse.
‘It’s like those years of my life have shaped who I am,’ said Jess.
‘But shaped everyone else’s judgment of me as well… it weighs heavy on my mind, there are people out there using these pictures to scam people and it feels like there’s nothing I can do about it.’
Jess met Walter, a catfish victim from the US, who was chatting to a stranger online using pictures stolen from Jess’ social media account.
‘She had all these [selfies] ready to go for any whatever occasion they needed to be’, said Walter’, it was amazing how good she was with it. There were also some nudes.’
Ahead of discovering she was a victim of eWhoring, Jess hired a London-based private investigator to try and find the full extent of how her images were being used on the internet.
‘I feel so upset, but just angry that all of this can happen and people just expect you to put up with it and act like it’s not a big deal’, said Jess.
‘There’s nothing wrong if people choose to do porn, but I never chose to have my photos on those sites’.
Keen to discover the motives behind eWhoring, Jess met with former scammer Aku, from New York, who began acting as a fraudster at the age of 13 after being recruited by internet users in their 20s.
He said: ‘eWhoring is fraud, you’re scamming people and looking to exploit people for your own financial gain.
‘As I’ve gotten older, I saw these people are going through something and felt bad every single time I was doing it and so I thought, I’m not doing this anymore and just gave up on it.’
After years receiving online abuse from angry men Jess embarked on a mission to discover why she was being targeted in BBC documentary When Nudes Are Stolen
Jess said she never felt comfortable enough to speak to any men who were catfished using her photos on the phone or in person because she feared opening herself up to even more abuse
While investigating her own images, she unearthed the practice of eWhoring, a type of cybercrime whereby people are impersonated online, and their nude photos are sold
Elsewhere in the documentary, Jess opened up about having nude pictures taken of her without her consent by someone she knew after they had slept together.
‘I went home with this one guy’, said Jess, ‘I really liked him, he was a friend of a friend, I just had a weird feeling in the morning.
‘He went for a shower so I checked his phone. He had taken pictures of me naked in bed when I was sleeping and text them to his friends and said “I’ve just slept with Jess Davis”.
‘It’s just another way of making me feel worthless and shame, I’m just an object and when multiple people treat you like that you almost believe it.’
Speaking of how to change the problem of images being traded without consent, Jess said: ‘It does sound daunting, to think “How do we even start to get a lid on this and change things”.
‘But it can just start with one person in a WhatsApp group saying, hey that’s not cool, I don’t think that’s right, maybe you should delete that. That’s where we can start.’
When Nudes Are Stolen airs tonight at 22:45pm on BBC One and will be available on BBC iPlayer
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