A True Story of Teen Vulnerability: The Online Sex Industry and The Lure of Easy Money
We have promised anonymity to the person who we interviewed for this article. To honour our promise, we will be using the fictitious name of “Cathy” throughout this post. We want to thank Cathy for agreeing to speak with us in such an open and honest way, and for allowing us to write this in order to educate others. This took courage and provided some insight that may help other people to understand the “why” of these scenarios. Cathy is hoping that her story may stop other teens from travelling the path she did. Some will shake their heads in disbelief, but we can assure you what happened to Cathy can happen to any teen, or adult for that matter. This is something Darren saw time and time again when he was a police officer.
Recently, we were contacted by a young woman (Cathy) who needed help given that she believed that her Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat accounts had been covertly hacked by an acquaintance she had connected with online. After a brief investigation, it was clear to us that Cathy had not been hacked, but rather she had been socially engineered online given her very public digital dossier, which was now being used as a weapon.
Unknown to us, Cathy who just turned 20, heard us speak as a young teen at her middle school many years ago. Cathy remembered the promise that we make at every school that we present to, “If you are ever online and need help and don’t know who to connect with, you can connect with us and we will help. If we can’t, we can connect you with someone who can.”
It turns out that starting at the age of 18, Cathy became involved in a subcategory of the online sex industry that specifically deals with submission and domination. Cathy agreed to share her story with us about how she became involved in this industry and the consequences of what she originally thought would be a quick way to make easy money.
While in her last year of high school, Cathy was getting ready to attend university and she had no way to pay for her education. She was working a job that would give her little financial ability to do so. At this time, Cathy read an article online about men who would pay for women to verbally, emotionally, and psychologically dominate them in private chatrooms. After doing some further research and learning that there was no actual physical sex involved, Cathy decided that she could be a “good actor” and say anything to anyone online if it would help her pay for university and all its included expenses. Cathy believed this was an anonymous, low risk, easy way to make some money to help supplement the income she was making in the hospitality industry to help pay for her education.
Through trial and error, Cathy learned online that all she needed to do was to join Reddit and sign into a subreddit that was specific to submission and domination. After being certified by a moderator on the subreddit (proving she was who she said she was), Cathy began her journey into the online world of domination/submission.
Cathy created an account on Kik, a Canadian based anonymous messaging app, where all communications would take place, and created a PayPal account that clients would pay into for her services. The subreddit was used to send potential clients to Kik so that further private and anonymous conversations could take place as to what the client wanted. Before any online submission or domination discussions took place, Cathy would direct the client to her PayPal account where they could pay for her services upfront. Once payment had taken place, all further engagements took place through Kik.
Cathy charged a $3.00 to $5.00 per minute fee for regular clients. For clients known as “drainers” or “rinsers” (clients who wanted her to drain their financial accounts as a form of submission), she would charge $20.00 per minute. There were also clients that she called “team viewers” where she charged a $20.00 per minute fee. These clients allowed Cathy to control their computers remotely (another form of submission), using computer software known as TeamViewer. TeamViewer is a free, proprietary computer software for remote controlling, desktop sharing, online meetings, web conferencing, and file transferring between computers.
Soon, Cathy learned that sexual domination could earn her more money. Although Cathy stated that she never sexually live streamed with clients, she did begin to sell full nudes of herself, in packages of 10, for between $15.00 to $20.00 dollars to clients who requested such a service. Although these pictures just started as simple nudes, it escalated to nudes of herself engaged in sexual behaviour that a client requested. Cathy also admitted that some clients would pay her $20.00 to purchase underwear for her to wear. Some of these clients would also request that she wear the underwear that they gave her money to purchase, and then send back to the client which she would charge a fee of $40.00 for.
Cathy stated that she would only spend 1-2 hours per day online with clients, and only worked online Monday to Friday. Given that this was primarily a text-based messaging service with clients, Cathy could do so privately on a bus to and from work, school, or during work breaks. Over a 5-month span, Cathy was bringing in approximately $800.00 a month, sometimes more, depending upon her client’s requests. Although she had regulars, she stated that many were one-time clients.
At first, Cathy stated that what she was doing offered her a real “ego/power boost” given that these clients would do anything she wanted them to do, called her a “goddess” or “mistress,” and they were willing to pay her money to dominate them. In fact, she used the word “addictive.” However, Cathy stated that the original ego boost has turned into a feeling of heavy shame, given that she hides what she does from her current boyfriend and parents. Given this fact, and because she was recently socially engineered by a problematic client that really scared her, Cathy has decided to exit from this industry.
Although Cathy believed that she was being careful about what she was doing online to reduce risks, it turned out that she did not take the precautions needed to minimize her personal online information. One day, one of Cathy’s clients began asking small, seemingly inconsequential questions about her life. Eventually, as she was asked more and more of these questions and she started putting the information together, she gathered that this social engineer had access to personal information about her life offline. Given that Cathy was not using a Virtual Private Network (VPN), it appears that this client was likely able to identify her IP address, which cascaded into identifying other personal information that led them to her personal Facebook page. Although Cathy did a pretty good job at securing and privatizing her personal Facebook page, there were still some vulnerabilities that she had not secured, which allowed the social engineer access to additional personal information and her true identity. Cathy’s aggressor was now using this information as a weapon, threatening to out her to her boyfriend, her parents, and her current employer if she did not do what they wanted her to do. In the hacking world, Cathy had been “doxed.”
During our conversations, Cathy also disclosed to us that over the past several years she has faced substance abuse challenges. Cathy admitted that some of the money she was earning online was also going to financially support this habit. Although we are not psychologists or psychiatrists, it’s hard not to draw a correlation between her addiction to drugs, which actually started in high school using the prescription drug Adderall, and her addiction to the online submission/domination industry. It is comforting to know that this young woman is now in counselling to help her cope with both challenges.
Cathy has a long journey of healing ahead of her, and we are so happy that her family is now playing a role in this journey. Although she had shared her story of drug addiction with her parents and boyfriend, she still has not shared her involvement in the online submission/domination industry given the shame that she now feels. Cathy’s life in the sex industry does live online and could become public, and this is her BIGGEST fear. People often don’t think about consequences to their online interactions given the disinhibition effect of the internet and social media. The internet and social networking NEVER FORGETS, but often teens, and even adults, forget this important rule. Remember, everything we post online is public, permanent, searchable, exploitable, copiable, and for sale and as such, what we post can be used as a tool to hammer out a bright future, or in Cathy’s case, used by a social engineer as a weapon.
Thank you again to “Cathy” for being so open and willing to talk about their life and experiences with us. She hopes to help prevent others from being socially engineered the way she was and to help educate the importance of online privacy and security.
The White Hatter Team