Bitcoin scammers used sextortion to blackmail victims for nearly $1 million

Bitcoin scammers used sextortion to blackmail victims for nearly $1 million
PHOTO: Unsplash

Bitcoin scammers have gotten creative with this current round of blackmail tactics, threatening to leak… uh, intimate pics and videos of victims watching porn to their contact lists. 

Victims were instructed to cough up Bitcoin to a digital wallet associated with the scammers. On average, Fortune reported that each victim paid less than US$600, (about 0.073 Bitcoin), racking up US$949,000 in ransom money.

If people refused to comply, scammers claimed they would release media of said victims watching porn on their computers (hopefully, we don’t need to explain what most people do while watching porn). This is a pretty relatable setup, as nobody wants dodgy pics or masturbatory preferences leaked to their contacts list (hello parents, grandparents, kids, and employers); scams like this are a major reason why the extra-paranoid like to slap tape over their inbuilt computer webcams. Of course, the pics don’t exist.

Anti-phishing security firm Area 1 released a comprehensive report on the scam, titled “Phishing With Fear”. Speaking to Fortune, Area 1’s Oren Falkowitz pointed out that phishing works because humans are “naturally curious.” The report also details how scammers bypassed spam filters by “[pasting] lines from Shakespeare or Jane Austen in invisible text in the email.” 

Email scammers aren’t exactly new, and neither are their tricks. Last year, Fortune reported on email scammers that scared people by showing them one of their previously used computer passwords. However, you can check if you’ve been compromised via HaveIBeenPwned.com, which will tell you what kind of information has been leaked via massive online data breaches. 

alexisong@asiaone.com

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