Security & Fraud

Porn Email Scam Nets Scammers Almost $1M In Bitcoin

email scam

There’s an email scam going around that involves scammers claiming to have webcam footage of people watching porn, with threats to release the info if not paid a hefty ransom in bitcoin, according to a report by Fortune.

Oren Falkowitz, who heads an anti-phishing company called Area 1, was contacted by a colleague about a friend who was dealing with the blackmail.

“They said they have videos of him looking at porn through his webcam,” the client wrote to Falkowitz.

Falkowitz had some helpful advice: “It’s fake. Tell him to delete [the email] and go to sleep.”

The truth is, the majority of such requests are fake. However, thousands have fallen for the blackmail scam, which demands bitcoin and threatens to send photos of the victim watching porn to everyone in their contact list if the bitcoin is not paid.

According to an investigation by Area 1, scammers have siphoned $949,000 from the crime. On average, a payout equals $593.56, which comes out to 0.073 bitcoin.

The company calculated the amount from examining the bitcoin blockchain, which has a permanent record of all of its transactions.

In addition to the porn scam, scammers also threaten to destroy data on a person’s computer or say they’re going to come to a person’s workplace and perform an act of violence.

Part of the reason that the scam is so frightening is because oftentimes the scammers will use a person’s personal password. That doesn’t mean they’ve been spying, though, as Fortune writer Robert Hackett explained:

“[People should] check to see whether any accounts tied to that password appear in Have I Been Pwned, a searchable database that identifies what personal information of yours may have leaked as a result of various online breaches. If any accounts that once used that password pop up, then the extortionist likely scraped all of the information from one of these data dumps. Translation: The crook has not been monitoring your every keyboard touch, screenshot, and webcam image. Rather, the delinquent is bluffing — frightening unsuspecting victims into forking over cryptocurrency.”

Falkowitz said it’s hard to fight these kinds of scams because people will always be vulnerable to emotional attacks.

“Training employees doesn’t work,” he said. “They’re too subject to emotional responses in response to phrases like ‘account compromised.’”

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