Peak sextortion attacks cost victims $ 8 million this year

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Picture: Francisco González

The FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has warned of a massive increase in sextortion complaints since early 2021, resulting in total financial losses of more than $ 8 million through the end of July.

The federal agency has received more than 16,000 sextortion complaints through July 31, nearly half of them from victims in the 20-39 age group.

“Victims over 60 were the third largest age group, while victims under 20 reported the fewest complaints,” IC3 said.

Sextortion occurs when criminals threaten potential victims in person or via email, dating sites and online chats to leak sensitive or private videos or photos unless a ransom is not paid .

As an email scam, the sextortion was first seen in July 2018, when fraudsters started sending emails to targets claiming they had videotaped them while browsing web sites. Adult sites, also including victim passwords (leaked during data breaches) to increase credibility.

The crooks behind the email sextortion campaigns also distribute various strains of malware, ranging from data-stealing Trojans to ransomware.

“Most victims report that the initial contact with the scammer is mutual and established using dating websites and apps. Shortly after the encounter, the scammer requests that the interaction be moved from the website. or from the app to another messaging platform, ”the IC3 explained.

“The scammer incites the exchange of sexually explicit material, then encourages the victim to participate via video chat or to send their own explicit photos. Immediately after the victim complies, the scammer blackmails the victim and demands to money to prevent photos or videos from being posted on social media. “

To make things even scarier for victims, crooks also often gain access to their victim’s social media or contact details, threatening to send the sexual images they got hold of to the victim’s family and friends. .

Those under sextortion threats are advised to immediately stop any interaction with criminals, contact law enforcement, and file a complaint with the FBI IC3 at www.ic3.gov as soon as possible. .

The IC3 also shared several tips to protect themselves from extortion attempts:

  • NEVER send compromising images of yourself to anyone, no matter who they are or who they claim to be.
  • Don’t open email attachments from people you don’t know. Links can secretly hack your electronic devices using malware to gain access to your private data, photos and contacts, or control your webcam and microphone without your knowledge.
  • Turn off your electronics and webcams when you’re not using them.


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