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Chinese government officials beg you to stop photoshopping them onto porn stars

shuangfengIt may be one of the strangest blackmail scams imaginable, but also one of the most amusingly ingenious: Chinese government officials are being blackmailed by forces unknown over their appearances in pornographic photographs that they never participated in. All possible, of course, with the little magic of Photoshop.

Officials in Shuangfeng County in the Hunan Province of China, have found themselves targeted by emails that include photographs featuring the officials in a number of revealing, and often obscene, poses – with the promise that said photographs will be uploaded to the Internet should the officials in question not pay up to prevent that happening. The fact that the photographs aren’t real doesn’t seem to factor into either side of the equation, surprisingly enough.

The idea is simple enough. The perpetrators are using portraits found on the official government website as the basis for Photoshop shenanigans in which their heads are cut out and pasted onto stills taken from pornography.

Amazingly, this scam turned out to be worryingly common and oddly successful; Shuangfeng police reportedly arrested more than 37 people (working in at least four known groups, entirely separately of each other) in association with these blackmail schemes last year after receiving a staggering 127 incidents were reported by government employees. The busts included the confiscation of “dozens of computers and hundreds of credit cards,” according to reports, and closed down an illicit business that had brought in approximately $7 million before the arrests were made.

Authorities in Shuangfeng are hopeful that other budding entrepreneurs aren’t about to get started on any kind of copycat schemes now the details of the scam have been made public. Admittedly, it’s hardly the most complex scheme in the world; all that’s really necessary is access to the Internet, some Photoshop knowledge and a gullible victim. Still, a warning needed to appear, so the officials have launched a new advertising campaign to try and dissuade anyone from doing anything untoward.

Yes, you read that right: Shuangfeng authorities have launched an advertising campaign warning people not to blackmail government officials with Photoshopped fake pornography.

The campaign is being delivered in the form of giant billboards throughout Shuangfeng County featuring a police woman saluting the viewer, superimposed against a background of yellow sky and red mountains, with a slogan reads “To create a good image of Shuangfeng, decisively crack down on the crime of exploiting Photoshop technology to blackmail people with composite images.” What it lacks in catchiness, it definitely makes up in directness.

In a way, it’s sad that this news is only coming out now; think of the American politicians whose careers could have been saved if incriminating photographs online could have been explained away as vicious Photoshop fakes created by wannabe blackmailers.