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How to Deal With Sextortion Email Scams

How to Deal With Sextortion Email Scams
June 05, 2024

“Hi there!</br> </br> I am a professional hacker and have successfully managed to hack your operating system.</br>”

Have you ever received an email claiming to have compromising videos of you and threatening to share them with your contacts unless you pay a ransom? If so, you've encountered a sextortion scam – a frightening but ultimately empty threat.

These emails prey on fear and embarrassment, often including personal details like your password (which they can easily obtain through data breaches) to make the scam seem more believable. But here's the truth: sextortion emails are a bluff.

Here's what you need to know about sextortion scams and how to protect yourself:

What is a Sextortion Email?

A sextortion email is a spam email that threatens to expose compromising videos or photos of the recipient unless they pay a ransom, typically in cryptocurrency like Bitcoin. The scammers claim to have hacked your device and captured footage of you engaged in sexual activity. They might also threaten to reveal your browsing history or online activities.

How Do They Work?

Sextortion emails often use scare tactics and try to appear legitimate. Here are some common elements:

  • They Claim to Have Hacked You: The email might state they have full access to your device and webcam, often including your actual password (gained from data breaches, not hacking).
  • They Threaten to Expose You: Scammers claim to have a video of you and threaten to send it to your contacts or post it online if you don't pay.
  • They Create a Sense of Urgency: They often give a short timeframe to respond, pressuring you into making a rash decision.
  • They Demand Payment in Cryptocurrency: Bitcoin is a preferred method because it's difficult to trace.

The Truth About Sextortion Emails

Here's the key takeaway: In most cases, the scammers don't have any real videos or evidence. They're counting on your fear and embarrassment to cloud your judgment.

  • They Often Use Generic Threats: The content is often recycled, using similar wording across different emails.
  • They Don't Know You: The email might include your password, but they likely don't have any specific details about your life or online habits.
  • They Target a Wide Range of People: Sextortion emails target anyone with an email address, regardless of age, gender, or background.

What to Do If You Get a Sextortion Email

Don't Panic! These emails are designed to scare you into paying. Here's how to respond:

  • Do Not Reply: Engaging with the sender confirms your email address is active and encourages them to target you again.
  • Do Not Send Money: There's no guarantee they'll delete the "evidence" even if you pay.
  • Report the Email: Forward the email to your email provider as spam and report it 
  • Delete the Email: Once you've reported it, there's no need to keep the email in your inbox.
  • Change Your Password: While they likely don't have access, it's good practice to create a strong, unique password for your email account (and other online accounts).
  • Scan for Malware (Optional): While uncommon, the email may contain malware. Run a scan with your antivirus software to be safe.

If you feel overwhelmed or concerned about the legitimacy of the threat, consider reaching out to a trusted friend, family member, or law enforcement for additional support.

Have you ever received such an email? Let us know on our social media @protectstar on X and Linkedin and @protectstar-inc on Reddit!     

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