SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, April 22, 2020 (Gephardt Daily) — The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center has seen an increase in reports of online extortion scams during the “stay-at-home” orders due to the COVID-19 crisis.
“Because large swaths of the population are staying at home and likely using the computer more than usual, scammers may use this opportunity to find new victims and pressure them into sending money,” said a news release from the FBI.
“The scammers are sending emails threatening to release sexually explicit photos or personally compromising videos to the individual’s contacts if they do not pay. While there are many variations of these online extortion attempts, they often share certain commonalities.”
- The online extortion attempt comes as an email from an unknown party and, many times, will be written in broken English with grammatical errors.
- The recipient’s personal information is noted in the email or letter to add a higher degree of intimidation to the scam. For example, the recipient’s user name or password is provided at the beginning of the email or letter.
- The recipient is accused of visiting adult websites, cheating on a spouse, or being involved in other compromising situations.
- The email or letter includes a statement like, “I had a serious spyware and adware infect your computer,” or “I have a recorded video of you” as an explanation of how the information was allegedly gathered.
- The email or letter threatens to send a video or other compromising information to family, friends, coworkers, or social network contacts if a ransom is not paid.
- The email or letter provides a short window to pay, typically 48 hours.
- The recipient is instructed to pay the ransom in Bitcoin, a virtual currency that provides a high degree of anonymity to the transactions.
- Do not open emails or attachments from unknown individuals.
- Monitor your bank account statements regularly, and your credit report at least once a year for any unusual activity.
- Do not communicate with unsolicited email senders.
- Do not store sensitive or embarrassing photos or information online or on your mobile devices.
- Use strong passwords and do not use the same password for multiple websites.
- Never provide personal information of any sort via email. Be aware that many emails requesting your personal information appear to be legitimate.
- Ensure security settings for social media accounts are activated and set at the highest level of protection.
- Verify the web address of legitimate websites and manually type the address into your browser.