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BBB warns of sextortion emails trying to blackmail recipients into giving scammers money

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The Better Business Bureau is warning the public about sextortion emails from scammers trying to blackmail recipients into giving them money.

According to the BBB, sextortion emails typically include threats to reveal images and videos of the victim watching pornography, copies of their browser history, or evidence that they downloaded videos from pornographic sites.

The increase in this type of scam is believed to be due to scammers getting access to legitimate usernames and passwords that were exposed during major security breaches.

According to the BBB, scammers will contact people whether or not they've viewed a pornographic site and claim they've hacked their computer and activated their webcam. The scammer then threats to send embarrassing images, videos, and screenshots to contacts of the victim if payment is not made.

BBB is sharing the following tips to help you identify and protect yourself from sextortion emails:

Red flags:

  • The scammer does not provide any details about what site you supposedly visited.
  • The scammer cannot support their threat with any evidence, for example, a compromising screenshot to prove they have the information they claim.
  • The scammer requests an urgent ransom be paid in gift cards, bitcoins or wire transfer.

Protect Yourself:

  • Never send compromising images of yourself to anyone, no matter who they are—or who they say they are.
  • Try searching the web for one or two sentences from the email to confirm it is actually spam.
  • No matter what the email threatens, do not respond. Also delete the email.
  • 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.
  • Never send money, buy a gift card or do anything to comply with the demands in the email.
  • Do a security check on your computer and install security software.
  • Enable two-factor authentication on your important accounts.
  • 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. Click here for more password tips.
  • To give you peace of mind, keep webcams covered when you are not using them.
  • Check to see if your email was compromised in a security breach.

All victims of a scam should report it on BBB Scam Tracker. 


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