There’s a new phishing scheme making the rounds that is called “sextortion,” or online extortion of a sexual nature. Spammers will send you an email and claim that they have installed spyware or hacked into your computer’s webcam to take videos of you as you browse pornography sites. They use this information to extort the person by claiming that they will release the sex videos if X amount of dollars or bitcoins are not paid for their silence. The FBI states that sextortion is defined as someone threatening to distribute your private and sensitive material if you don’t provide them images of a sexual nature, sexual favors, or money. They may also threaten to harm your friends or relatives by using the information they allegedly obtained from your electronic devices unless you comply with their demands.
The sneaky twist to this illegal scheme is that the perpetrators have often times bought emails and passwords off the Dark Web, so it looks like they actually know something about you. They often divulge redacted phone numbers (“XXX-XXX-0550”) and/or passwords in order to “prove” how they obtained access to your personal computer or device. It’s tricky, but not proof that someone has actually hacked into your computer.
Here are sometimely recommendations to help you avoid becoming a victim to these online extortion schemes:
- Do NOT respond to the email. This scam is similar to the old Nigerian prince scam, albeit with a more scandalous approach. Once you engage with the scammers by responding to their email, they will continue to elevate it to a more advanced level of the scheme. If you do not engage with them, they will move on to the next victim.
- Do NOT send compromising images of yourself to anyone, no matter who they are or who they say they are. Anything electronically recorded or relayed by a computer or a smart phone can be found by someone with the right technological aptitude, so keep all compromising images off the Internet.
- Do NOT open any attachments from people you don’t know or from email addresses that you don’t recognize. These often release malware, viruses, trojans, and spyware onto your computer or device, which can be devastating in so many ways. Installing a good security program on your computer and smart phone should help winnow out the spam from the legitimate email.
- Turn off your electronic devices and webcams when you are not using them. It’s also a good idea to cover your webcam on your computer or phone with a piece of electrical tape when you are not using it to be extra sure that no one can see you.
- Do NOT pay the ransom they are asking for. Even if the information they are telling you seems accurate, it is more important to report the incident to the FBI or your local police department as soon as possible so they can work on tracking down the perpetrators.
“The last thing you should do is to pay money to these guys,” says Manhattan private investigator Darrin Giglio,“Once you pay, they’ll always come back for more.”Giglio says it’s better to get the details to the proper authorities so they can track down and prosecute them. A private investigator can help collect evidence that the police can use.
This should also be a reminder for you to change and maintain your passwords! If you are still depending on old passwords that were used 10 years ago and that may be readily available by hackers or on the dark web, it’s time to change them, enable a two-factor authentication system, and perhaps use a password manager to keep your passwords strong and unique. This is your first line of defense against online extortionists and hackers as well as other potential online security breaches.
Article Submitted By Community Writer