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Is the Porn Blackmail Scam Real?

by on March 12, 2018
in Computer Safety & Support, News, Computers and Software, Blog :: 583 comments

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What would you do if you received an email from someone claiming to have hacked your computer and recorded you via your webcam while you were engaged in watching porn, then threatening to send the video to everyone in your email and social media contact lists if you don’t pay a $260 ransom? Would you pay the ransom? Even if you’ve never viewed porn, what if they made the same threat to reveal the private details of all your emails?

This is exactly the situation some of our readers found themselves in recently, and they contacted us for help on how to proceed.

Here is an example of one the emails [grammatical errors left intact]:

Good Morning my friend. I represent the group of web criminals in Iran. I use this mail address because we think that you will check it. Few times ago my team put the virus on web-site with porn and as far as you clicked on a play button your system started shooting your screen and activating camera to capture you self-abusing. Eventually I mean you understand what compromising evidence Ive earned. Moreover, this software made your device act as dedicated server with plenty of functions like keylogger, parser etc. To sum up, my software picked all data, especially all your contacts from messengers, e-mails, social networks. If you wanna make me silent you must make a transaction of 260 dollars with bitcoin. 1K2auXQEKz7Ro8cRa2xr3bAPV2n6KT5vi1 You must use it as usual credit card number. If you send bitcoins nobody will see your shame. Watch youtube manuals about methods of buing BTC... I can offer you this exchanger: localbitoins.com.  If you have a problem with this, you can search comfortable ATM for bitcoin at coin atm radar. I give you no more than twenty four hours since you read our message to pay. You can complain cops, but they can not find us I use bot network, and of course we live abroad. If you want us to show proofs we will share it to seven mates from your data after that you will be given their contacts. So you will ask them if something strange was received about you. For some questions just reply. Dont be fullish, AmAZinGcRackeR$.

Scary, right? And there have been instances where victims’ computers were hacked, they were filmed in various states of undress (or worse) and then blackmailed that may make this threat seem all too real. But there are several indications that this is nothing more than a phishing scam, hoping to rope in active porn watchers with false threats (an easy demographic to target via mass email given that the world’s largest porn site, Pornhub.com, gets 75 million visitors PER DAY).

First, there is nothing in the email that demonstrates they know anything personally about you: it’s not addressed to you by name and there’s no detail about what site you supposedly visited and when. Nor did they supply a screenshot of the “self-abusing” they allege to have captured. In fact, they are explicitly discouraging you from asking for proof, by threatening to share said “proofs” with your “mates” if you ask. That is completely contrary to how we would expect a real hacker/blackmailer to act – if I wanted to scare the bejesus out of you to get you to pay, the first thing I would do is show you a compromising screen capture to prove that this is very, very real.

Another red flag is that when our readers ran scans using antimalware tools, no malware was detected. Antimalware tools aren’t perfect, but the better ones should have picked up the type of remote administration tool (RAT) described in the email.

Searching the web, there are reports of people receiving similar email scams, going back at least to last fall. The wording of the email varies, including where the scammers claim they’re from, the nature of their threat and the amount of money being demanded. Some people are falling for them, but fortunately not many. I researched a selection of the bitcoin accounts used in these scams and none of the emails had duped more than a handful of victims.

Unfortunately, these scams will likely continue and morph into new threats as the ubiquity of bitcoin makes it easier for scammers to hide behind these accounts and for victims to pay.

So, if you get one of these emails, should you pay the ransom before all your friends find out what you’ve been up to?

The answer is no, don’t be “fullish”.

[EDITOR'S NOTE REGARDING PASSWORD APPEARING IN THE EMAIL SCAM 7/12/18: A number of people have posted in the comments that they received a version of the email which includes a real password they've used in the past. Does this mean that they should be concerned? The answer is No and Yes. No, you shouldn't be concerned that your computer was hacked and you were actually filmed watching porn - it's still a scam. But, yes, you should be concerned that your password has been leaked through a data breach. Security researcher Troy Hunt has uncovered more than 500 million passwords leaked through these breaches. That password in the email was likely one of them. 

If it is still an active password for you, the scam email should be a big wake up call that you need to ensure you are using unique and secure passwords for every one of your accounts. We strongly recommend a password manager like Dashlane or 1Password , which will automatically check your passwords to see if they have been revealed in a breach and help you create unique, secure ones for every site.]

[EDITOR'S NOTE WARNING ABOUT ATTACHMENTS 7/20/18: One reader reported receiving an attachment titled "Invoice" with the porn scam email. If you get an attachment, DO NOT OPEN IT. Email attachments are one of the primary ways hackers use to install malware on your computer, which could turn this fake malware scam into a very real one.]

[EDITOR'S NOTE ABOUT EMAIL SPOOFING 10/19/18: Many readers are commenting that the porn blackmail email appears to be sent from their own email address, causing added concern the hacking claims may be real. But don't be fooled. Email spoofing has been around for long time and is relatively easy to do. Usually the message headers will reveal the true sending email address. Here's how to tell if an email has been spoofed.]

[EDITOR'S NOTE ABOUT WORK VS PERSONAL EMAILS 1/21/19: A number of people are expressing concern in the comments that the blackmail email is coming to their work email, instead of their personal email (or both). It doesn't matter — an email address is a email address as far as this scam goes. Billions of emails have been leaked over the years, many of those from business-focused services such as Dropbox, LinkedIn and Adobe. If I check to see which of my email addresses have been involved in breaches, my work email has been breached many more times than my personal email.

[Image credit: Man in a dark room at a computer via BigStockPhoto]



Discussion loading

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Porn on my email server.

From hjpm@eastex.net on August 06, 2019 :: 10:38 am

I was told by my computer tech that my computer had been hacked and comprising videos of hard core porn are now my computer. Via remote access, he showed me the evidence. I agreed to pay him $1200 to remove the comprising material and install Sonic-Wall Gateway Security to preclude this ever happening again. Did I do the right thing?


Jim

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Is this for real?

From Josh Kirschner on August 06, 2019 :: 1:20 pm

I’m not sure whether this is a real comment or a fake one trying to promote the product above. But I will answer it assuming this is what happened…

First of all, no one hacks a computer and loads porn on it. There’s no purpose to doing that unless it were part of some bizarre blackmail scheme. I have no idea what “evidence” of a hack he was able to come up with remotely. If you have that evidence, let me know what he claimed.

Assuming a hack of this nature did happen, it was probably something you were tricked into doing, and anti-malware software (either Windows Defender or a commercial package like Norton or Bitdefender) would likely stop it from occurring in the future. If it were a true “hack”, that should be stopped by your internet router (unless you have an outdated or really crappy router) and Windows Defender Firewall. Hard to say more without more details from the “evidence”.

Unless you’re running a business and require complex, customizable front-end firewall configurations, there is no need to install expensive gateway solutions. And if you paid $1,200 to buy one for home protection, you likely got seriously ripped off.

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Scam?

From Sue Davies on August 06, 2019 :: 2:06 pm

This sounds like a scam to me.  Was “my computer tech” someone known to and trusted by the writer, or someone who rang up out of the blue?  It has echoes of the scammers who ring up pretending to be from Microsoft, or similar, to trick people into giving them remote access to their computers and then instal malware to capture keystrokes.  The writer may want to check what has actually been installed on his machine, it’s possible that being ripped off is the least of it.

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I would say "So?"

From Jaimes Palacio on September 15, 2019 :: 9:26 am

First off: I cover my camera on my computer with black cardboard. Secondly, my private e-mails? Have at it f**khead. Everyone I care about already knows that I despise Trump and my very many hatreds and my very many colorful usage of variations of profanity. I would not tell this person that though. I would say: “What a coincidence, I happen to be in I.T. and I have just pinged this e-mail address and have alerted the authorities and have your address. If they don’t buy that. I would just use my grasp of the aforementioned colorful profanity and bid goodbye. Then, assuming it was a real e-mail address-which is unlikely, but hey, there are idiots in the world that are not in The White House- I would take their e-mail address and send it to a number of authorities AND spam them for a month.

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Blackmailing mail first time

From DM on October 15, 2019 :: 1:20 am

I have got an email on my official website on yesterday at 6.30am saying as below.

“Greetings…

I HAVE A VERY BAD NEWS FOR YOU.

On 01/04/2019-on this day I hacked your operating system and got full access to your account support@amley-amley.com.

On that day your account password was support53.
It is useless to change the password, my malware intercept it every time.

How it was:
In the software of the router to which you were connected that day, there was a vulnerability.

I first hacked this router and placed my malicious code on it.When you entered in the internet, my trojan was injected into explorer.exe on the operating system of your device.After that I made a full dump of your disk (I have all your address book, history of viewing sites, all files, phone numbers and address of all your contacts).

I made a screenshot of the intimate website where you have fun.After that I made a screenshot of your joys(using the camera of your device) and joined all together and it turned beautifully, donot doubt.
Just send $606 in my BTC wallet:
1GHKu2wVTLYWxRbuosssciibkEjYt92piQ.

After sending the money my virus and all your photos will destruct automatically. You have only two days.  Otherwise all the informations will be leaked.

I don’t know how they have got my email.Also I didnot open any account and set password.I have only one day left. Just help.

Just tell me what to do now.

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The article was pretty clear this is a scam.

From Josh Kirschner on October 15, 2019 :: 12:20 pm

The article tells you how they got your email and what to do (nothing, it’s a scam).

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Blackmailing mail first time

From DM on October 15, 2019 :: 3:21 pm

Thanks a lot for your help.

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Hope it’s a scam too but I dunno

From Mike on December 03, 2019 :: 8:11 pm

So I guess I’m in the same boat but sure sure it’s not real. I was on was stupid dating sites drunk and hi and a really attractive girl wanted to video chat with me. It seems innocent enough but then they sent me a video and screenshot back at me saying the same type of thing. They said hello (Name) and put pictures of my Facebook account, pictures, contacts, emails, etc. of course I freaked out and didn’t know what to do. If I was over at probably one hour got so freaked out so my dumbass fell for it a little bit. It says pay them or the publisher and send it to everybody I know including my work and friends on Facebook or whatever type of social media. If it is a scam is there anyway to get rid of that crap or will it be there forever or should I be worried???
Please Respond I’d really appreciate it if I can get some peace of mind because I’m kind of losing it.

Thank you
Mike

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It's extortion

From Josh Kirschner on December 04, 2019 :: 3:20 pm

What you experienced sounds like a common extortion scam (read this from the BBC: https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-37735369). From the way you describe it, it is “real” in the sense that they do have an actual video of you and your personal information. But if you don’t pay, they still might never follow through on their threats. And if you do pay, there’s no guarantee that they won’t keep trying to get more money out of you.

Your best strategy is to completely ignore them. Don’t respond, don’t negotiate. If they do try to publish it and send you a link, contact the posting site ASAP to have it removed. If you’re lucky, nothing more will come of it. If not, you may have to live with a little embarrassment. For more info: https://www.cagoldberglaw.com/5-steps-online-blackmail-scams/.

Also, you may want to contact the FBI: https://www.fbi.gov/video-repository/newss-what-is-sextortion/view. I don’t know what may come of it except the possibility of scaring the extorters back.

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Continue..

From Mike on December 03, 2019 :: 8:14 pm

Sorry I forgot to add that they keep texting calling and threatening to release everything through WhatsApp, my cell phone number, and email accounts.
Have you ever heard of this before or is it just the same type a deal? Should I change my number or just delete and block him from everything? I just don’t know what to do everybody knows me in my town and I die if it got out

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Dont be worry

From Greystoke on December 04, 2019 :: 2:07 am

Read this site, you are one of tens millions even hundred millions. Do not pay never do not contact them ever .

https://www.forbes.com/sites/daveywinder/2019/10/16/have-you-sent-15000-sextortion-emails-today/

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He's in a different situation

From Josh Kirschner on December 04, 2019 :: 3:34 pm

What you link to is what I covered in this article - anonymous email sextortion scams. What Mike experienced is a targeted sextortion scam, where he was actually filmed and they know who he is. A far more scary and insidious scam.

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Fake Blackmail Scam

From Jrs on January 28, 2020 :: 9:06 am

Addressed to me by first and last name with an ID#

From the name Fabiano Udinesi

U know that wanking is a very bad practice? Read this letter to the end!
Disgusting video of you fapping have been taken utilizing your webcam. No doubt that ur closest people will be appalled by this!
My spyware stole all ur enquiries, passwords of your social networking web-sites and not only these data.
I may upset u, do not try to ask for help law enforcement they won’t be able to catch me, since I am an alien (that is why my english knowledge leaves much to be desired).
You destinate 16.5 Lite coin to the address ltc1qepvt3uef6cz58aedtyaacqqta2cv044w5yv7el and I will destroy all of your staggering vids.
I offer u twenty-four h to pay for my silence (my system will send me a notification that u read the message)!
You may defy these demands, but then I will have to to direct all of your leverage to ur loved ones and upload your videos on the Internet within forty-eight hours.
There’s no need to write me, the mail is hacked and soon there will be no access to it.

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Our messages are very similar!

From Jordan on January 28, 2020 :: 4:59 pm

They both use the word “staggering” to describe the videos. They seem fake. *fingers crossed*

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Think you're good

From Josh Kirschner on January 28, 2020 :: 6:55 pm

Unless your videos truly are “staggering”, you should be fine. And anyone whose videos are staggering probably should consider a new career!

But seriously, it’s all fake.

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THANKS!

From Jordan on January 28, 2020 :: 4:49 pm

Just wanted to post this to help others. I have noticed some similarities to all the messages. They often mention their English is not great or they are foreign. I’ve gotten emails like this in the past but I recently got a webcam and am a bit worried, not gonna lie.

—————Original Message—————
From: Diana Pisano <voltlam761huelva_group.int@aol.com>
To: Jordan
Date: January 28, 2020 at 2:13 PM
Subject: Jordan *lastname* id82490575

I’m seeing you adore wanking off so u see the msg!
What your relatives are going to say having seen the videotape of u jerking off…I’m very interested in their response to it!
My data miner copied all of your enquiries, passwords of your social networks and more data.
My english literacy is bad for I am an alien (don’t attempt to report to law-enforcement agencies they will not be able to find me).
I will delete all ur staggering videos once I am paid for my silence, 0.07 BTC to the address bc1qkyccq8k4kqjkqr0dqfx5qc65ysywfg96ghhdw2.
There are only twenty-four hours for payment after you open this text (I will know when you open this msg reading)!
U may defy the demands, but then I will have to to send all of ur blackmail material to your loved ones and upload ur videos on the Internet in forty-eight hours.
The electronic-mail is interim, soon there will be no access to it, don’t try to write to it.

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