written by Brett M. Christensen February 1, 2019
Fake blackmail sextortion scams are increasingly common. Typically, sextortion scammers send out thousands or even millions of identical emails claiming that they have captured video of the recipient visiting a porn site. The scammers threaten to send the compromising video to all of the recipient’s contacts if they do not receive a “keep quiet” payment via Bitcoin. But, the scammers have not created a compromising video. Nor have they hijacked the recipient’s contact list. The whole thing is a bluff. However, the scammers know that at least a few recipients will be panicked into sending the requested money. To increase their chances of success, the scammers use a variety of dirty tricks to convince potential victims that the claims in their fake blackmail messages are true.
Email Spoofing Trick
One such trick is to make it appear that the email was sent from your OWN account thereby supposedly proving that they have indeed compromised your device as claimed.
Here’s an example from a typical scam email:
Your account has been hacked by me in the summer of this year.I understand that it is hard to believe, but here is my evidence:
– I sent you this email from your account.
– Password from account [email address removed]: [password removed] (on moment of hack).
If you look at the sender address of the email, it will display YOUR email address. So, it may seem that the sender has indeed broken into your account to send the email. But the scammer has simply forged the header of the email so that your email address appears as the sender. This is a technique known as “spoofing’ and is not difficult to do. In other words, the email did not come from your account at all. It just looks that way because of the forged email headers.
Other Dirty Tricks
As I discuss in more detail in another report, the scammers often include user passwords in their scam emails as a way of making their false claim seem more plausible. And, in another variation, the scammers include the recipient’s phone number along with the password. The scammers are extracting passwords and phone numbers from old data breaches and automatically matching them to the corresponding email address. They can then distribute vast numbers of emails that are identical except for the password and phone number that matches each email.
Don’t Respond — Just Hit “Delete”
If you receive one of these scam emails, don’t be fooled. By including real passwords and real phone numbers, and making it appear that the recipient’s account sent the message, the scammers significantly increase the likelihood that their claims will be taken seriously. More people will fall for the ruse and send their money to the criminals. But, despite these clever tricks, the emails are still just empty bluffs. To reiterate, the sender has not hacked your computer and has not created a compromising video of you.
Don’t respond. Just hit the “delete” key.