COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — Police say a website extorted a Cottonwood Heights man by threatening to send out copies of a video chat he participated in to his friends and family members.

The incident happened Thursday while a 20-year-old man was viewing pornography on the Internet, said Cottonwood Heights Police Sgt. Dan Bartlett. The man ended up on the website, and started talking to a woman through Skype.

Afterward, the man received an instant message telling him the entire incident was recorded and would be distributed to friends and family members unless he bought memberships to a number of pornographic websites, Bartlett said.

The person who sent the message even included a link to his Facebook page, which did not have "private" settings, to prove they knew who his family members are, he said.

The man used his credit card to sign up for different websites until he maxed out the card, Bartlett said. The person allegedly continued to send him messages as he signed up for the sites, letting him know whether he was doing it correctly.

Later, the man — fearing the person would send the video anyway — called his bank to try and stop or reverse the charges, Bartlett said. The bank told him he needed to file a police report. That's when the man, despite his embarrassment, called officers.

Investigators were able to trace a phone number associated with the website back to Arkansas, Bartlett said. But they were still trying to collect IP address information and other phone numbers to determine if the website was based in the U.S. If not, Bartlett said there isn't any action they can take and it may end up being a "tough lesson learned" for the man.

Bartlett called it was a brazen scandal, and one he had not heard of before. But he said there could be other victims who have been simply too embarrassed to step forward.

"Who wouldn't pay to have that not posted?" Bartlett asked.

He said the situation was a good reminder for all people to be careful of their actions on the Internet, and to make sure that all Facebook conditions are private.

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