The Better Business Bureau has released a warning about “sextortion” emails.
The BBB’s warning describes emails sent by scammers trying to blackmail recipients into giving them money. Sextortion scammers typically use threats to reveal personal images, videos, or copies of your browsing history. They will often claim to have evidence that you downloaded videos from pornographic sites. According to the BBB, it would appear that this recent uptick in these kinds of scams may be due to the fact that scammers have gained access to legitimate usernames and passwords during major security breaches.
These scammers have several red flags as well as a similar process they seem to follow. First, they’ll contact people, regardless of whether or not the people have visited pornographic sites. They will claim to have hacked your computer and webcam and that they will share embarrassing videos, images and browsing histories to your family, friends, and coworkers if you don’t send them payments. In most cases, these are all just empty threats. Scammers may have access to some individuals’ sensitive personal information, but they’ll cast a wide net with the threats they send out, hoping to catch a few panicked victims who will send them regular payments. However, in some cases individuals are targeted with real information due to data breaches that have compromised personal data in the past.
In any case of sextortion, report the scammers to the BBB and your local authorities. You can protect yourself from these scams by not sending any kind of compromising images to anyone. Never respond to these emails either, or the scammers will turn up the heat on you and try harder to blackmail you. Delete the email after making note of the address and never communicate with the scammer.