A 24-year-old Florida man was arrested Thursday on charges that he broke into women's Web mail accounts, looking for explicit photos to post online.
According to police, Joseph B. Campbell used phishing to trick his victims -- some of whom he knew from high-school -- into divulging their passwords. He'd get email addresses from their Facebook pages, and then send his victims phoney electronic greeting cards that would ask them for login information for Web mail accounts, said Thomas Edwards, chief of police with the Belleair Police Department.
Once he had a victim's password, he'd then search through her mailbox for sexy photographs, Edwards said. "He would post pictures that might be private in nature to their Facebook profile and he also set up a Web site for those pictures," he said. "They were nude pictures that a female might have sent to her...boyfriend or fiancee."
Campbell told police he had hacked into between 350 and 500 accounts, Edwards said. As of Friday, police had identified 22 victims, most of whom were in their early 20s.
Campbell, a temporary computer worker with a large local company, wanted to get people to pay to access his Web site, but police are unsure about his true motives. "We aren't sure if it was for revenge or for some other purpose," Edwards said. "He said he never made any money because the more he thought about it, the more he was afraid that he would be identified. He was doing some things to try and conceal his identity. He never collected any funds."
Nonetheless, his victims were "devastated" after the compromising photos were posted to their Facebook profiles, Edwards said. "A lot of these women are engaged. One has recently married. They're young professionals and to have something personal in nature become public like this certainly bothers them."
Campbell faces four felony computer crime charges, but he could also face federal charges because some of the victims were out-of-state, Edwards said. The 24-year-old was released on bail Friday and is expected to be formally charged in the next few weeks.
Campbell isn't the first person to be charged with stealing nude photos from Web mail accounts such as Gmail or Hotmail. Earlier this year, George Bronk, 23, of Citrus Heights, California, pleaded guilty to charges that he hacked into more than 3,200 email accounts looking for explicit photos. He posted many of them to his victims' Facebook pages.
In April, a 26-year-old Minnesota man was charged with stealing private photos of women to post on pornographic Web sites.
It's not unusual for people to send racy photos of themselves to their lovers. But most people don't realize how easily they can be accessed by others, Edwards said. Accounts "can easily be hacked into and what they think are private or personal things can easily become public or go worldwide," he said. "Don't put anything in your accounts that you wouldn't mind your mother seeing."