Police in New Zealand have issued a warning about an international hand and foot fetish scam which has caused distress among its victims, many of whom are young, cash-strapped and female.
According to Netsafe New Zealand, an independent internet watchdog, there have been nearly 20 reports of women being promised money to take pictures and videos of their hands and feet – and the numbers are growing every day.
So far all of the victims were told the images were for ‘an art project’ – but Netsafe said it was highly likely they were instead being posted on overseas sexual fetish websites.
People who fell for the scheme were promised between NZ$2,000 and NZ$9,000, money they never saw.
Victims said the initial requests for photos were straightforward enough – simple snaps of their hands and feet. But then the requests became more specific.
“It started getting a bit weird and I started getting suspicious,” an unidentified university student told Radio New Zealand.
“She was like, ‘This one we need you to get supplies’ … she asked me to get oil, gloves and stockings.”
A number of victims were targeted through a national student job website.
“We have known about this scam for a while, but now someone has spoken out many more victims are coming forward, and the reports are coming to us at an unusual rate,” said Sean Lyons from Netsafe.
“People can develop fetishes for any body part, ears, elbows, whatever. We haven’t had any reports yet but I wouldn’t be surprised if there is someone out there offering money for people to take photos of their ears, and saying it’s for ‘art’.”
Lyons said so far only one of the victims had identified her feet on an overseas fetish website.
“As you can imagine, to find that image requires trawling through these fetish websites, which can be very disturbing. And it also means realising you have been scammed, and why.”
Lyons said statistically New Zealanders were no more vulnerable to internet scams than any other nation, but their “trusting nature” sometimes meant they took promises at face value, and could be easy targets.
Detective Superintendent Tim Anderson, New Zealand police’s national crime manager, said: “This particular scam differs from ordinary phishing scams that target individuals or businesses using information specific to the target victim to get money. This involves a legitimate site asking for photos without being clear about the intention or use of those photos.”
“Don’t send personal information, personal details and or photographs to people you do not know without considering the risk that the images or information could be used for other purposes and could be posted online for others to see and share.
“And finally remember if you think it is too good to be true it probably is.”