Many scam artists use the Internet to prey on innocent people. Some of them try to dupe people into sending them money, while others use more coercive strategies. Here are some popular scams that cyber-extortionists use so you can try to protect yourself.
Hacking Sensitive Materials
Some cybercriminals will actually hack computers of prospective victims to find compromising documents. Materials that hackers look for include evidence of criminal activity or anything that could embarrass the victim (such as explicit pictures or emails proving infidelity).
Some extortionists try to make their scams more scalable by hacking thousands of computers at a time. Other cybercriminals target wealthy people that are more likely to be lucrative victims. Michael Mancil Brown was charged with extortion and wire fraud last summer after hacking former presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s tax returns and threatening to release them to the public if he didn’t pay a million dollars in bitcoins.
Cyber extortionists are some of the reasons that you need to be especially careful about improving your security online. You will need to keep strong passwords, anti-malware software and regularly check your emails and social networking sites for signs of suspicious use.
Duping People into Explicit Conversations
Scammers often try to bait their victims into engaging in explicit conversations with what they believe to be members of the opposite sex. A number of men have been tricked into having provocative video chats on Skype with the scammer. The extortionist later revealed that they had recorded the conversation.
They threaten to release the video to the victim’s friends and family unless a ransom is paid. Everybody should be careful when engaging in sexual discussions with people online. They should also be careful about engaging in such video chats with someone they do know, because hackers sometimes intercept the video.
Ransomware is the latest technology that cyber-extortionists use to force their victims to give them money. This type of malware will be disable people’s computers and tell the victim that they need to pay to have it removed. The extortionist rarely remove the ransomware after the fee is paid.
Some ransomware applications are used on sexually explicit websites. They have messages pretending to be from the FBI or another law enforcement agency stating that the victim will be arrested if a “fine” is not paid through MoneyPak or another untraceable payment processing system.
It is never a good idea to pay the fee. The extortionist will have access to your banking information and may be able to try to steal more money from you in the future. Your best bet is to just get the malware removed.
Fake Law Enforcement Emails
Some scammers also pretend to be members of law enforcement. They will send out mass emails insisting that they have evidence of a crime. These emails either claim that the victim needs to pay a fine or pretend that the agent will overlook the crime if a bribe is paid.
You should ignore these details. Law enforcement officials will not send emails to people they suspect are engaged in criminal activity, because they don’t want to give them time to destroy the evidence. They also do not charge fines for the types of crimes these emails reference.
About the author: Kalen is a former engineer that has participated in several technology startups. He discusses trends in the technology sector.