Online blackmail scams are a class of scam emails that attempt to force people into paying money to prevent disclosure of their online activities. The scam works by leading the recipient to believe their computer has been hacked and their secrets recorded on video by the scammer.
The scammer then threatens to release those videos to the public, to the recipient’s friends and family, social media friends etc.
In almost all cases, the scammer knows nothing beyond the recipients email address, so the whole thing is a hoax but it does lead some people to pay up (in Bitcoins, anonymously).
However, some scammers go to the trouble of buying personal details from other criminals to make their blackmail seem more believable.
Imagine you receive a threatening email but the scammer knows your password, which accounts you have, date of birth, family names or similar then the whole hoax becomes a lot more believable.
BUT, the scammer has not hacked your computer – they have simply bought that information. They get their information mostly from data breaches – the hackers sell this data to other criminals.
You may think your details have never been involved in a data breach (as you’ve never been told that your data was compromised) but if you want to be sure then check the website https://haveibeenpwned.com/ and input your email address. It will tell you which (if any) data breaches your email address was involved in and you may be surprised.
The data the criminal has may well be out of date so you may find the password they quote in the blackmail is an old one that you have previously changed, but if the password quoted is currently valid then you need to take precautions immediately in case the criminal tries to use your accounts.
The emails are very general – trying to scare the recipient into believing that the sender has found something that the recipient cannot allow to be disclosed to the public or to their family and friends.
Clearly, this wont work on many people, but for the scammers it’s a numbers game. They hope by sending out huge numbers of these emails randomly they will hit some people frightened enough to pay up.
The email title is something like “Your life can be destroyed – everything is in your hands”
The message contains badly written sentences designed to frighten but be general enough to potentially include as many people as possible.
“I uploaded the malicious program on your system”
“I pilfered all privy background from your system”
“I have more compromising evidence”
“After adjusting, your camera shot the videotape of you”
“My malware collected all your social and work contacts”
“When I get transaction I will destroy all evidence in perpetuity”
The scammer wants a payment in Bitcoins and sets a short time limit for the payment.
I hope that no-one responds to this attempted blackmail, but who knows.
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