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Women in the city are increasingly becoming victims to traps laid by cyber crooks on the Internet.

A particular modus operandi, which has crooks assuming fake identities and establishing intimate friendships with women over social media before threatening and blackmailing them to post their intimate photographs on the web, has seen seven cases registered in just 12 days in October.

This is when 195 cases, all based on similar complaints, are already under investigation by the Cyber Cell of the Hyderabad Police. At least four such cases are reported every month, according to officials, who say that the actual number can be much higher since many women do not come forward to lodge complaints.

According to a senior police official, crooks, mostly in the online garb of a student or software professional, would initially contact potential victims over social media, and gradually gain her confidence.

The soft approach, which they try to take to an intimate level through regular conversations, takes a twist with the crook slowly beginning to pressurise her for intimate photographs. Refusal is met with a threat, often showing morphed photographs, and then asking for original ones.

“Once they feel the woman is ready to share personal content, they start demanding for more,” the official said, adding that the problem arises only when the woman accepts friendship proposals from strangers.

“They ensure that the victim adds him on her social media account. By downloading her pictures from her personal album, they morph her pictures with obscene ones and use these to blackmail her,” he said.

There were also several cases where the fraudsters posed as females to convince the victim and lure her into sharing personal information.

The underlying message, officials say, was to be extremely careful with strangers on the web, because there was little or no way to see who is actually on the other side of the screen

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