Herts residents targeted by sextortion scam

Living Magazines Herts Police Headquarters

Police are issuing advice after a dozen Hertfordshire residents received scam emails since the beginning of April.

The victims received emails claiming to have evidence that they had visited sites featuring adult content. The messages claim that the scammer was in control of the victim’s internet devices, including cameras, enabling them to record what the victim had been doing online.

The emails also claim that the scammers have copied the contact list from the victim’s phone and social media accounts, as well as logged all activity on their devices. The email goes on to demand a payment in Bitcoin (approximately $2,000) saying that if they do not receive this within 24 hours then the recording will be sent to all the victim’s contacts. As proof of their claims they provide a password to one of the victim’s accounts. The password is usually a genuine one that the victim has used, which convinces them that the claims are real.

Detective Inspector Rob Burns, from Hertfordshire Constabulary’s Serious Fraud and Cyber Unit, said: ‘This can be a very convincing scam as criminals can obtain these personal details which have been acquired as a result of a data breach. The fraudsters claims are false and no such recording exists. The offender will try to use technical terms to confuse and scare the victim. If the password is one the victim recognises then they must change that password on the website it corresponds to and to any other websites that use the same password. Action Fraud has received over 9,000 reported cases involving these scam emails*. If you receive an email of this kind, never make any payments.

‘You can test your email address at: haveibeenpwned.com which will tell you any accounts that have been compromised. You can also sign up for an email service that will tell you if a website that holds your personal data has been compromised. This will allow you to change the password for any websites that use that password. Please note that this is not a Police website.’

Hertfordshire Constabulary recommends these top cyber tips: 

  • Create a separate password for your email account,
  • Create a strong password for every website using three random words, turn on two-factor authentication (2FA),
  • Update your devices, turn on backup, never open an attachment from an unexpected email and never click on a link in an email.

For more information, visit: www.actionfraud.police.uk/sextortion.

If you have received a phishing email (of any kind) please forward to: report@phishing.gov.uk. If you are victim of any fraud please report it to Action Fraud.

*Action Fraud reported on 20 April that a total of 9,473 phishing emails linked to sextortion have been made to the NFIB phishing inbox between 31/03/2020 – 19/04/2020. There has also been just over 200 reports made to Action Fraud in the last week.