‘Sextortion’ emails on the rise, targeting Canadians who may or may not visit porn sites

The scam targets people who may or may not have visited pornographic sites

A modern-age type of scam called “sextortion emails” is on the rise in Canada, prompting the Better Business Bureau to issue a warning.

Sextortion scams are when a scammer sends an email to their intended victim threatening to reveal images and videos of them watching or utilizing pornography, with evidence in the form of browser history records, unless they give the scammer money.

The scam targets people who may or may not have visited pornographic sites, claiming they have hacked their computer and activated their webcam. They may claim that they have been able to access all the porn sites the victim has visited.

The scammer then threatens to send embarrassing images, videos and screenshots to stolen contacts, family, friends and co-workers if a payment is not made – often in the form of crypto-currency like bitcoin .

ALSO READ: Online ‘sextortion’ cases involving teen boys spiking: experts

Although the blackmail is likely an empty threat, victims are demanded to pay hundreds if not thousands, the Better Business Bureau said in a news release Wednesday. In some cases, the scammer may in fact have a person’s legitimate username and password, due to security breaches that have happened in the past.

In those situations, the scammer may have an email, telephone number and at least one password, and will refer to it in the email.

In one case, a Burnaby senior contacted the bureau using its Scam Tracker system and said that “a scammer obtained my password and demanded to be paid almost $1,700 in bitcoin, otherwise, he would send porno pictures of me to my friends.”

Karla Davis, manager for public relations with the bureau, said this is one example of hackers getting bolder and smarter with their scams.

ALSO READ: B.C. man charged with sexual exploitation ‘has a long way to go to not reoffend’

“Unfortunately, threatening the release of embarrassing footage that could negatively impact one’s personal and professional reputation, can trigger the need for self preservation, even if it comes at a cost of hundreds or even thousands of dollars,” Davis said.

“Scammers will happily play on a person’s emotions to trick them out of their money, and this is why it is important that you assess the situation and not just give your money away in a panic.”

The BBB has released these tips to ensure you’re protected from sextortion scams:

  1. Never send compromising images of yourself to anyone, no matter who they are—or who they say they are.
  2. Try searching the web for one or two sentences from the email to confirm it is actually spam.
  3. No matter what the email threatens, do not respond. Also delete the email.
  4. Do not open attachments or click links in emails from people you do not know. Doing so could lead you to a fake website designed to trick you into giving up personal information or you may download malware to your computer or mobile device.
  5. Never send money, buy a gift card or do anything to comply with the demands in the email.
  6. Do a security check on your computer and install security software.
  7. Enable two-factor authentication on your important accounts.
  8. Change passwords often and consider getting a password manager to ensure your passwords are strong and unique. Avoid using ‘password’, ‘Password123’, ‘12345’, and other most commonly used passwords.
  9. To give you peace of mind, keep webcams covered when you are not using them.

To check if your email has been compromised in a security breach, click here.


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

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