The Jordan Times
By Mohammad Ghazal – Apr 19,2014 – Last updated at Apr 19,2014
AMMAN — Accepting a friend request on Facebook nearly destroyed the life of an 11-year-old girl in Zarqa Governorate, leaving her traumatised with need of psychological treatment, according to the Criminal Investigations Department (CID).
“When the girl accepted the request, the person who befriended her on Facebook saw her profile picture and sent her a message saying he doubted that she was a girl,” said Lt. Col. Sahem Jamal, chief of the Cyber Crime Section at the Public Security Department’s CID.
“Then, he asked her to send him another picture of her to prove that she was a girl,” Jamal told The Jordan Times in an interview last week.
“The girl sent her picture to the man. After he received it, he started threatening her and telling her that he had her picture and would tell her father and family if she did not send him naked pictures of herself,” he added.
After repeated threats, the child sent her naked pictures to the man, fearing that he would tell her father, said Jamal.
“A few days later the girl told her mother, who rushed to the Criminal Investigation Department to complain,” he added.
“The mother filed a complaint but said her husband would kill the girl if he found out, adding that she did not want to go to court as she didn’t want anyone knowing about the issue.”
Following investigation, CID experts identified the man who blackmailed the girl, arrested him and referred him to the prosecutor general. He is in his 20s, Jamal noted.
The child is one of the many victims of cyber crime in Jordan, where there has been an increased rate of cyber threats and crimes against individuals, according to the CID official.
Eighty per cent of cyber crime victims in Jordan are women, who often face blackmailing attempts after criminals hack into their social media accounts and steal their personal photos, Jamal said.
Common cyber crimes in Jordan include sexual abuse of children, promoting prostitution online, blackmail, fraud, identity theft on social media networks and stealing credit card numbers, according to the CID.
“Women in particular need to be cautious. Sometimes when a woman ends her engagement, her ex-fiancé starts publishing her private pictures as a sort of revenge,” said Jamal.
“Girls and women need to be careful even with the pictures they save on their smartphones as sometimes these phones get lost or stolen and their pictures are then exposed.”
In 2013, the CID dealt with 1,300 cyber crimes, of which about 75 per cent involved women as victims, according to Jamal.
Men also victims
Although the majority of the victims are women, men are also common victims of blackmail or fraud.
One of the new crimes witnessed in Jordan is deceiving Jordanian men, who are usually in high managerial positions, into video-chatting with girls online.
Jamal said organised groups in Jordan and abroad, especially Morocco are usually behind these crimes, recording the men’s lewd conversations with the girls and blackmailing them.
“Many people came and complained to us. Many of them paid fearing that their videos would be published on YouTube. Some of the victims paid thousands of dinars and even when they paid, their chat videos were published,” said Jamal.
Jordanians lose millions of dollars in cyber frauds annually, he added.
“In 2013, a Jordanian businessman complained to us that he was defrauded. He transferred money to a company abroad that claimed to be investing in properties.
“He sent them $1.7 million without even seeing the company or visiting their project. He was told by the company that his money had increased and that he made $4 million in profits. Then, when he contacted them to receive the money, they never answered,” Jamal added.
“When he complained, we discovered that the company was fake and through Interpol we managed to take the necessary measures to apprehend the suspects,” he said.
Since the beginning of this year, Jordanians have lost about $3 million in e-fraud, according to the CID.
Jamal said there are several laws that criminalise cyber crimes; however, there are some “loopholes” that need to be addressed.
“For example, in the case of the 11-year-old girl, the harasser’s actions cannot be criminalised. The Jordanian law says a sexual abuse crime occurs when the suspect touches the victim, and in the case of this girl, the criminal did not touch her; he did worse,” the official stressed.
“Laws need to be changed so that this type of criminal act is penalised properly,” he said.
“The man was referred to the prosecutor general, who has the authority to put him in jail for a maximum of one year. Therefore, there are legislative loopholes that need to be addressed.”
Many of the cyber crimes go unreported, said Jamal, stressing that people need not be ashamed of complaining, “but in many cases people do not complain fearing a scandal”.
“People can complain to us and we assure them we can identify those involved and hold them accountable. If someone’s Facebook account or e-mail is hacked, or if he/she faces any other kind of cyber crime he/she can come to us,” said Jamal.
“People should not believe every e-mail they receive from strangers. People should be prudent with the actions they take online, and parents should pay attention to their children.”