Better Business Bureau serving Canton Region and Greater West Virginia offers tips and advice for consumers to avoid fraudulent practices.
THE CONCERN Better Business Bureau is warning the public about sextortion emails from scammers trying to blackmail recipients into giving them money. Sextortion emails typically include threats to reveal images and videos of the victim watching or utilizing pornography, copies of their browser history or evidence that they downloaded videos from pornographic sites. BBBs nationwide received 32 reports of this scam in April 2020.
The FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3.gov) also recently reported an uptick in online extortion scams during the stay-at-home orders issued in response to the coronavirus pandemic. With more people staying at home and likely using their phone, computer or tablet, con artists are using this opportunity to their advantage in hopes of getting money from you.
HOW THE SCAM WORKS:
The scammers will contact anyone — whether or not they’ve actually visited pornographic sites. They claim to have hacked your computer, activated your webcam, and videoed you while you watched pornography. They tell you they have been able to access all the pornographic websites you have visited and threaten to send embarrassing images, videos and screenshots to stolen contacts, family, friends and co-workers if a payment is not made.
Generally speaking, the threat is likely an empty one, because the blackmail message usually doesn’t have enough personal information to make their scheme plausible. However, there are some cases where the victims are specifically targeted because their data was compromised in a major security breach some time ago. In those situations, the scammer may have your email, telephone number and at least one password, and will refer to it in the email. By using real information, the scammer’s email sounds more threatening and convincing. Recent submissions to BBB Scam Tracker state that the criminals want to be paid in bitcoin, a virtual currency that is very difficult to trace.
A consumer in Wheeling, WV recently reported to BBB that she’d received three emails in just four days demanding what would be converted to $28,000 in bitcoins. “They used what they thought was one of my passwords in the subject line and threatened to send videos to all my contacts of me in a compromised activity. They also accused me of visiting porn sites. I assure you the video is fake and I have never gone to a porn site,” she told BBB. She did not pay any money.
Another consumer, from Alliance, OH forwarded her email to BBB with a similar scenario. However, she states, “Interestingly, I have an iPhone, but no computer, WiFi or internet.” The two emails were similar in nature; however the amount of the second email was for $2000 in bitcoin.
Unfortunately, some victims have reported paying the requested amount for their peace of mind, so hackers are getting bolder and smarter…