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Scam Watch: Help! I’m being blackmailed by a cyber criminal

A member received an email from an anonymous blackmailer trying to extort thousands of pounds. How would you respond in this situation?

A Which? member, who wished to remain anonymous, recently shared this shocking story with us:

“I’ve received a menacing email from an anonymous blackmailer. It claims I’ve been tracked accessing pornography online and my webcam, email, social media and messenger contacts have also been compromised.

“The hacker says they’ve created a video showing the porn videos I’ve been watching and footage from my webcam of me engaged in sexual acts. They go on to demand $2,600 worth of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin.

“I haven’t viewed any porn websites, so I suspect they’re lying. However, they have cited an old password I once used on an online account. The fact that they have this makes me very nervous. What should I do?”

Sextortion racket

This is an example of a sextortion scam. By quoting a genuine password, the blackmailer gives the message an air of credibility.

However, stolen passwords are readily available on the dark web. The fact that someone has yours is in no way proof that they have lewd footage of you. While it’s technically possible, it’s highly unlikely.

Do not pay up. Check if the password the scammer is quoting is still current anywhere and, if so, change it immediately.

Here are some tips for creating strong passwords. Also be sure to run a full anti-malware scan of your computer regularly. Finally, report the email to Action Fraud.

Have you been targeted by a sextortion scam? Did you report it?

How often do you change your passwords?

Never – unless websites or apps make me (42%, 403 Votes)

Every few years – it's an inconvenience (36%, 342 Votes)

Regularly – I'm very security conscious (22%, 211 Votes)

Total Voters: 956

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Comments

I received two similar e-mails, one appearing to originate from my own e-mail address (how is this done?). I ignored them and recently received an e-mail from Walker’s Bulbs advising me that they had e-mails and passwords hacked and presumably sold on. It is about four years since I bought from them.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Duncan, that’s interesting. It seems your scam email came out not long after a genuine Google one on a similar topic.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

I get this now and again. I tried reporting it to an official police website (can’t remember which one). I got an automated response. They weren’t interested.