A private personal video was hacked from a personal device in the US and was leaked by an unknown blackmailer from overseas when his demand for 20,000 dollars’ payment was not paid by the local victim.
Bedebii Chiokai, Principal of Modekngei High School, received messages on her Messenger on the 28th of September from an unknown person demanding that she send him $20,000 or else he would release a video of her that would damage her position. The unknown person also called her on her cellphone demanding the same and emailed her after she disconnected her FB and Messenger accounts as well as her phone.
“The man who spoke to me on the phone had a Nigerian or African accent but the telephone numbers he sent me for further contact included a number from the Philippines,” in an interview with Island Times.
After disconnecting her contacts, she received an irate email again from the blackmailer stating, “Don’t blame me on my plans if you don’t cooperate with me.” “I vow and swear on my life, once you help me out I will not do anything stupid again and everything that do with this video.” Furthermore, the email demanded, “I need $20,000 thousand dollars to fix my studies in the United Arab Emirates and also working there…I give you extra one week to make payment through Moneygram or Western Union Transfer.”
After she had her communications turned off, the blackmailer contacted a teacher and school counselor at Ibobang demanding they have the Principal contact him immediately. He had also sent earlier via Messenger a screenshot of his conversation with one of the teachers at the school as proof to Chioka that he was indeed serious. After Chiokai asked the teacher who the person was and why he was conversing with her, all the messages the blackmailer sent to her on Messenger and email were wiped out.
Fortunately for Chiokai, she had forwarded copies of the emails earlier to her cousin asking for her advice on what to do with the blackmailer’s demands. Those emails were retrieved and provided to the police.
“This has been a terrible terrible time for me and my family. I don’t deny the video. It’s a personal failure of mine and it has affected my kids and my husband and our families on both sides. I want to stop the rumors going around that there was a student involved. This was absolutely NOT with a student or a minor but a relationship with an adult who is in the US presently. I made a terrible mistake personally in my own private life, and it had nothing with the school or the students,” expressed an emotionally upset Bedebii. “That person is in the United States and his phone was hacked.”
Mrs. Chiokai said that she had requested a leave of absence from work from her school Board and to allow an investigation to take place. She had also filed a report with police regarding the hacking and the blackmail.
When asked why she was willing to come forward after such a compromising video, Mrs. Chiokai said that she did not want the school and her group (Cheldebechel) to be affected by the backlash from her leaked video. “It is me personally that is at fault here, not the school or my Cheldebechel” she expressed tearfully. “There are NO students involved. If there was, there would be information coming from them or the parents. If people are going to throw stones at me for a poor personal decision I made, let them throw at me, Bedebii Chiokai, and not the school or others that have nothing to do with this.”
“Even if I had $20,000, I still would not have paid the blackmailer. I will suffer the consequences but I will not pay these criminals money for hacking private information and blackmailing people,” added Chiokai.
The blackmailer (s), had obtained information about Chiokai as well as the entire education ministry and contact numbers of individuals to push Chiokai to make payment.
Two people with computer and internet expertise that Island Times spoke to say that it is nearly impossible to track and find such perpetrators, especially those overseas.
With high-speed internet comes not only benefits but new threats. Hacking into computers and smartphones is a growing international crime with governments around the world struggling to contain it. This incident is a tip of an iceberg where Palau can expect to see more of the same type of crimes due to high speed internet access.
Some tips on what to do if you find yourself being blackmailed include, Resist the urge to engage with the blackmailer; Do not try to negotiate or pay the ransom; Preserve all communications and evidence; Enlist support from a trusted person to document the evidence; Adjust your online privacy settings; Set up online alerts; and Report the crime to law enforcement.