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Sextortion scams surge

By , ITWeb
Africa , South Africa , 20 May 2021

The number of e-mails claiming to have access to webcams and threatening to expose the footage on porn sites is set to rise.

So say cyber security experts at NordVPN, warning not to fall victim to these scams, which the company says are in essence, blackmail attacks. The victims are threatened that their private photos from hijacked webcam footage will be released on pornographic sites.

Daniel Markuson, digital privacy expert at NordVPN, says the criminals behind these scams are adopting a ‘spray and pray’ approach, sending e-mails to everyone on Craigslist, and hoping to capitalise on a handful of those who have something to hide.

“Corporate employees make up the largest part of victims of sextortion scams, all thanks to how easy it is to find company e-mail addresses. And it pays off — back in April, Forbes reported that sextortion scammers were raking in $100K a month,” he adds.

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According to Markuson, sextortionists usually have less than they claim they do, but if an unknowing victim clicks on a link provided in the email, the perpetrator can get access to their webcam.

Sextortion has many forms, some of which are instantly recognisable, he explains.

“A person gets an email from an anonymous sender who claims to have footage of them in a private moment. Usually, these senders claim to have gotten the footage by hacking the person’s computer and then waiting for the person to visit an adult Web site for some private time, at which point they’d capture the footage. In most cases, scammers demand payment in cryptocurrency.”

To avoid falling victim to these scams, keep an eye out for signs of a sextortion campaign. These will usually contain panic-inducing subject lines, and might also contain threatening words or warnings that the individual’s webcam or account has been hacked.

“Sextortionists often cite the person’s real password and contact details in their emails,” says Markuson. “Thanks to the proclivity of data breaches, those details aren’t exactly hard for them to get access to. Do not reuse passwords. This will greatly lower the impact when a password does get stolen.”

Anyone suspecting they might have been compromised, should regularly check on Have I Been Pwned. For continuous checks, use Dark Web Monitor in the NordVPN app. Also, keep your VPN connection always on as this will secure the network connection by encrypting the data sent through it.

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