‘Sextortion’ scams on the rise

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RALEIGH, NC (WNCN) – A lot of people around the area are being subjected to a new scam.

The email comes from an unknown blackmailer demanding money to keep that person from revealing what is supposed to be secretly recorded videos of them engaging in compromising activities.

But, it’s just a very clever scam that investigators say continues to frighten some into paying. 

You’re scrolling through your emails when suddenly something gets your attention.

It’s a message with your password in the subject line and a claim that the sender has webcam videos shot from your computer of you watching adult videos or worse. 

The sender claims he will take those webcam videos and forward them to your entire contact list as well as the police, unless you pay up using Bitcoin.

It’s called “sextortion” and cybercrime experts say—there are people who will be victimized.

“Someone will pick up on it and say, ‘Oops—maybe I did something wrong’ and pay that scam,” said Detective Kevin West of the Cary Police Cybercrime unit

The password in the email makes its look like these crooks really have something on you—but they’re bluffing.

“They haven’t been hacked and their computer hasn’t been compromised,’’ said Rob Downs the CEO of Managed IT Solutions. “It’s just a matter of their credentials are out on the web.”

CBS 17 consumer investigator Steve Sbraccia first told you about this scam about a year ago.

Downs says passwords are obtained from data breaches and then sold on the dark web.

He says because most folks keep using the same password—it makes the extortion threat look legit because most people hardly ever update their passwords.

“If I have your password from five years ago—I probably have it for today,” said Downs.

If you get one of those emails, there’s only one thing to do.

“Don’t pay the money,” says detective West.

He also says investigators have seen this scheme evolve into more than threats.

“Sometimes it gets to the point where it freezes your computer in an encrypted state,’’ he said.

The best advice—makes sure your computer is backed up before its hacked. Then you can fix it by erasing the hard drive.

“If it’s frozen in an encrypted state just wipe it and start over again,” said West.

Before you get hit by this scam or others—be proactive.

Change your password now. It’ll protect you in more ways than one in the future.

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