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Sextortion (from “sexual” + “extortion”) is an online scam that attempts to extort money from victims through sexual blackmail on social media or with fake threatening emails.

How does it work on social media?

  • the scammer uses a fake profile to contact his victim (usually male) by chat and pretends to be interested in starting a relationship;
  • After gaining the victim’s trust and becoming intimate with them, the scammer asks them to undress in front of the webcam or exchange compromising photos;
  • if the victims act accordingly, they are then blackmailed and threatened with the release of sexual text messages (sexts), private photos or videos unless they agree to pay a large sum of money.

What should you do?

  • Avoid “friending” people you don’t know and be suspicious of contact requests from strangers.
  • Verify the profile photo of the person who has contacted you (use the “Images” section of the major search engines).
  • Chatting with people you don’t know increases the risks, since any content sent online can be made public and disclosed to anyone: friends, relatives, acquaintances, strangers.

How does it work by email?

Porn blackmailers usually send an email to inform the recipient that his computer has been hacked. The scammer then threatens to publish videos/compromising photos if the victim does not pay a sum of money as requested. The threat is made more credible:

  • if the email subject line contains the victim’s username and password, obtained from previous data breaches;

  • when the email appears to have been sent from the victim’s own email address (through spoofing techniques), thus increasing their fear that the mailbox may have been hacked.

What should you do?

  • Delete the email and ignore any other similar message: it is an extortion attempt that seeks to create a “panic” effect and take advantage from it.
  • Do not respond to the email: that would only confirm the existence of your email address.
  • if the email you have received refers to a password you're still using, then your account isn’t safe because someone knows your password. Change the password and activate two-factor authentication.
  • Navigate safely and always keep your security software updated.
  • Stay informed about new threats: crimes such as sextortion are a problem for everyone. Share information about this type of scam.