Watch for these red flags of scammers threatening to expose compromising online activities.
Could You Be a Target for COVID-19 Extortion?
Now that COVID-19 “stay-at-home” mandates mean more people are working from home or staying inside, most of us are spending more time online. So, it’s no surprise that scammers eager to blackmail you have found a new way to scare people into sending them money.
Imagine opening an email one day to find a message from someone threatening to expose sexually explicit or personally compromising videos or photos of you to everyone on your contact list – even business associates or customers. Even if nothing embarrassing comes to mind, how can you be sure?
After all, plenty of people have at least a few secrets and momentary lapses of judgment when it comes to love, sex, and smartphone cameras. And even if you don’t have compromising photos or videos out there, what if the person emailing threatens to just tell people that you do?
Click or swipe for signs that an online extortionist is out to shame you into paying their ransom.
1. Scammers adapt to the times
Due to COVID-19, “online extortion scams,” are on the rise, according to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.
“Scammers adapt their schemes to capitalize on current events such as the COVID-19 pandemic, high-profile breaches, or new trends involving the Internet, all in an attempt to make their scams seem more authentic,” says the FBI.
2. Email from an unknown party
If you receive an anonymous email threatening to post a sexually explicit video of you or reveal alleged online sexual proclivities, the message is probably a scam.
Scam extortion emails frequently contain broken English and grammatical errors, according to the FBI, which warns against opening these types of emails or any attachments.
3. Scary accusations
The online scammer may accuse you of cheating on your spouse, visiting porn websites, or placing yourself in other compromising situations.
To protect yourself from becoming a target of online extortion, never store embarrassing photos online or on your phone or other mobile devices, advises the FBI.
4. Demands for payment
Online extortion scammers typically demand that you pay immediately, offering a 48-hour window for payment to avoid exposure of your embarrassing deeds or photos, for example.
The scammer may instruct you to pay the ransom in Bitcoin, a virtual currency that offers a high degree of anonymity to the transactions, says the FBI.
If you believe you’ve been a victim of online extortion, it’s important to report the scam to your local FBI field office and file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.
5. Claims of contact list access
Online extortion scammers typically threaten to send the alleged compromising video or other embarrassing information to your family members, friends, coworkers, or social network contacts if you don’t pay the ransom, according to the FBI.
6. Sensitive, personal information is noted
Online extortionists like to throw in an extra dose of intimidation by including your personal information in the email or letter – your user name or password, for instance.
Don’t reply to these unsolicited communications, warns the FBI. Instead, make sure you use strong passwords and vary passwords for multiple websites.
7. Explanation of how compromising information was gathered
According to the FBI, the extortion email or letter might include statements such as “I had a serious spyware and adware infect your computer” or “I have a recorded video of you.”
To protect yourself from spyware and other malware, the FBI recommends ensuring that your social media security settings are set at the highest protection level. Also, verify that websites you visit are legitimate and type the site address into your browser.
This article by Deb Hipp was originally published on Debt.com.
Published by Debt.com, LLC