Irish writer blackmailed after sending nudes with a connection from Hinge, goes public with his story

Connecting with Tracy felt exciting and easy for many reasons. I cannot call it love at that early stage, but I felt thrilled to meet someone new. Tracy was not my first match on Hinge, but for the first time, I met someone who shared a similar history.

  • 2 months ago
  • March 6, 2024
8 min read
Daragh Fleming's online experience on a dating app went from fun to horrific when a blackmailer threatened to release his nudes. | Photo courtesy Daragh Fleming Daragh Fleming's online experience on a dating app went from fun to horrific when a blackmailer threatened to release his nudes. | Photo courtesy Daragh Fleming
Daragh Fleming's online experience on a dating app went from fun to horrific when a blackmailer threatened to release his nudes. | Photo courtesy Daragh Fleming
journalist’s notes
interview subject
28-year-old Daragh Fleming is a mental health blogger, author and poet. His conversational writing style is influenced by a background in Linguistics and a passion to promote positive mental health and well-being. After an online dating experience went wrong, he began publicly speaking out about his sextortion experience to educate young people on the dangers that lurk on the internet. He speaks at schools and writes about the topic.
background information
Online scams are becoming increasingly dangerous. Scammers on dating apps often target young victims, threatening to make their private photos public. To avoid the disgrace, many who cannot sustain the financial demands resort to taking their own lives. For more information on Sextortion:
Sextortion: It’s more common than you think | ICE
Sextortion: What Kids and Caregivers Need to Know — FBI

BARCELONA, Spain ꟷ As a budding writer in Ireland with a huge following, my life began improving after years of struggle with depression and mental health challenges. Things were looking up. One day, in the summer of the 2023, my Hinge notification buzzed. I opened the app to see my match: 26-year-old Tracy from Cork.

Tracy ignited curiosity in me. She used a lot of slang words common to Cork, and we moved very fast. I felt relaxed. Tracy began sending me intimate photos of herself, and I sent mine back. Little did I know in a matter of weeks, those images would be used against me as blackmail. While the scammer on the other end of the phone counted down and waited for me to transfer 2,000 Euros, I saw my entire world collapse right in front of me.

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In weeks, the love connection on Hinge went from exciting to horrific

Connecting with Tracy felt exciting and easy for many reasons. I cannot call it love at that early stage, but I felt thrilled to meet someone new. Tracy was not my first match on Hinge, but for the first time, I met someone who shared a similar history.

We attended the same college and she lived in my city. It felt really good. After about two weeks, Tracy said she didn’t like talking through the dating app and suggested we move to Snapchat. I could relate and said yes.

After another week of chatting and sharing videos on Snapchat, one Friday evening, she sexualized the conversation and sent explicit images and videos of herself. We agreed to meet in person the following Wednesday for coffee. Caught up in it, I sent back images of myself. The weekend passed, Monday came, and my phone beeped. Tracy messaged me on snapchat.

Right before my eyes, I saw screenshots of my body. Tracy used another phone to take pictures of my intimate images. She also took screen grabs of my family’s Facebook pages. It terrified me. “Tracy surely is from Cork,” I thought, “That accent, the slang, the in-depth knowledge of people and places.” I saw her face in videos, not just photos. “She has to be real,” I told myself.

During our calls, she said my name and sent videos showing herself. Everything felt so real, I struggled to convince myself otherwise, but I was wrong. Tracy did not exist. Despite not ever seeing her last name, I trusted the situation.

Scammer demands 2,000 Euros or threatens to expose nudes

Suddenly, the person on the phone started a countdown, jolting me back to reality. “You have 60 seconds,” the person said. “If you do not send us 2,000 Euros, we will send these images to your family. If you do not tell us to stop in five seconds, they will receive them.” With a condescending air, the person started typing, “Five…four….three…two.” I panicked and began sweating.

“My God, what did I get myself into,” I thought. Influenced by activities that appear commonplace today, I let my guard down and sent private pictures of myself. I heard stories like this, but never thought one day, the experience would become first-hand. The vulnerability I offered Tracy was being weaponized against me. I only ever sent intimate images to people I truly trusted. I felt the world closing in on me as my heart rate quickened and I screamed, “Stop!”

This person called me on Snapchat, so I picked up. The voice on the line clearly was not female. The scammer said, “You have a lot of money in Ireland and a lot of good jobs. We do not have that in Nigeria. I want some of that money.” I responded, “Okay, but that’s not my fault. I’m a writer, man. I do not make any money to send to you.”

The man asked if I had Bitcoin and I said I did not. “Why,” he asked. I said, “I just don’t have it.” He then told me to find some and sent it. I abruptly hung up the phone. The man called back, demanding to know why I ended the call. “I thought you finished talking,” I said.

Worried his nudes would become public, young sends tweet that goes viral

Again, I hung up and this time, I blocked the scammer. He tried to add me on a few different accounts, so I blocked them all. Next, he began messaging me on Instagram. “I reduced it to 500 euros,” he said. “Be a good man. Don’t make me ruin your life. This is your last chance,” he wrote. I did not reply and, again, blocked him. After blocking him from several additional accounts, he stopped messaging me and I never heard back.

For about 10 minutes, I felt sheer panic. When the panic subsided, I felt like I won; I overcame the fear of being exposed. I still worried about my mother seeing the photos so I called her immediately. “If you get a message on Facebook from someone you do not know, don’t open it,” I said. “It is going to be a picture of my private parts and I don’t want you to see it.” I told my mother everything that happened and she never got upset.

My openness with my family, our good relationship, and our understanding of mental health issues played a big role in us moving through the situation. As far as I know, the man never released the photos publicly. Yet, since I wasn’t sure if he sent them to people close to me, I decided to get ahead of the problem. Consumed by stress, I worried about people finding out about this on WhatsApp groups. I’m no superstar, but I am well-known in Ireland.

An hour later, I sent out a tweet. “I am getting blackmailed for my nudes,” I wrote. “They want 2,000 Euro. Obviously, I’m not paying so if you see my nudes enjoy them.”

Blogger, author imagines his nudes will become part of future scams

My tweet quickly went viral. Soon, the Irish newspapers and radio picked up the story. Many people showed empathy, but some trolled me online, including the editor of a big financial publication. I reported the incident to the police, but they couldn’t trace the scammer. In the interest of not inciting racist and anti-immigration groups in Ireland with an agenda to push, I withheld the origin of the man who scammed me when I went public.

Even though he said he was in Nigeria, I did not know if I could believe it. “Who would give up their location,” I thought. His perfect Irish accent seemed to indicate he could be close, or perhaps just played into the stereotype; I still know little. Reflecting back on our correspondence, we never engaged in a live video call. “Tracy” sent me videos about her day, turning the camera to show me. People generate these types of videos through AI and deep fakes exist, yet I suspected nothing at the time.

Now, I imagine my photos becoming part of their scams – passed around in their dark world. For weeks, the thought haunted me. Never hearing from him again, I lost focus and found it hard to eat or sleep. I constantly checked my messages, friend requests, and asked my family if they got anything. The intense anxiety dwindled as the days passed and after a couple weeks, life returned to normal.

Once I shared my story, speaking out on sexploitation, messages arrived from young people, especially teenagers, and parents. These kids became victims of sextortion too. You cannot imagine how common this practice is until you experience it. Someone in the Netherlands told me he paid and the blackmailers asked for more money, continuously. I advised him to stop paying, which opened an opportunity to start helping people going through the same ordeal. I already worked as a mental health blogger and author. Now I would speak publicly on this topic, too.

Never pay scammers, the panic will pass

Some victims, sadly, took drastic and fatal measures to avoid the embarrassment. I needed to let people know, this does not have to ruin your life. Things move on and no one really cares. I say to them, “It happened to me at 28. It is embarrassing but my life will go on. I am 29 now and it did not turn out badly.”

I also work remotely with a mental health organization. When the incident happened, I informed my boss and colleagues, and asked for time off. I felt something akin to severe grief and they granted me a few days. They completely understood and empathized, even offering extra days if I needed it. In a traditional job outside of mental health, the reaction could have played out differently.  

These understanding reactions helped. My family and friends reminded me that in a couple months, everyone will forget this episode. Maybe we can even joke about it. Not all victims have that support. They may come from conservative families or religious backgrounds where people mock or ostracize them. To young people, especially those between 14 and 16 years old, my first piece of advice is do not send nudes.

Yet, if you do, and something happens, do not panic. Do not send money, and do not feel ashamed. You are the victim. Contact the police and talk about this with someone. Never isolate yourself. Isolation can become dangerous. I noticed victims are often young men and I believe this reflects the loneliness many of them feel, pushing them to take risks.

I do not use Hinge anymore, but if I did, I would surely be more careful. If I intended to share photos with anyone, I would ask to meet in person first. This experience completely changed my approach to dating apps.

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