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CBS12 News Investigates: Beware of sextortion scam

CBS12 News Investigates: Beware of sextortion scam (WPEC){p}{/p}
CBS12 News Investigates: Beware of sextortion scam (WPEC)

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Sextortion is the latest scam ruining lives by using something we all use every day.

Con-artists say they recorded you in various stages of undress by hacking into your webcam.

This worrying new scam uses a person’s real password to trick them into paying a ransom in order to prevent the release of risky photos.

In fact, it was that credible twist that caught the attention of a CBS12 News employee and prompted her to click and nearly fall for this sextortion scam.

Baffled and somewhat alarmed, Alexandra Jenkins read the email, which threatened to release video of her watching porn to her entire contact list.

When she refused to pay the price, the scammer sent this: ”Let us see what is going to happen if you choose this path. I definitely will send your sex tape to your contacts including members of your family, coworkers, and so on. It does not save you from the humiliation you and your family will have to feel when family and friends uncover your dirty sex tape.”

But, there's one major flaw in this failed extortion attempt.

"First, I don't do any of this, and I know I keep all my information private,” explained Jenkins.

Jenkins is one of tens of thousands of people who recently received a ransom email like this.

One where cyber criminals claim to have evidence of you watching porn, cheating on your spouse or in some way behaving badly.

"I wouldn't have to worry, but for someone that actually partakes in this, the fear of their friends of family finding out would be absolutely terrifying," said Jenkins.

"It is very traumatizing for the victim,” said FBI Special Agent Laura Schwartzenberger. “Their reputation is on the line."

Some scammers take the threat even further.

"There has been cases where they've hacked into the victim's computer and hacked the person's camera. That is where they got images or videos," explained Special Agent Schwartzenberger.

What makes this scam so much more deceiving is what's in the subject line of the email: one of your passwords which convinces people to click.

“It had my username and password that was over a decade old,” said Jenkins. “Out of curiosity, I opened it."

The passwords are real thanks to a number of data breaches which makes the threat seem real, increasing the number of victims who fall for it including adults, teens and children.

In the past few months, the FBI received an additional 13,000 complaints from across the country in connection to this new type of sextortion scam.

Prompting the FBI to issue this warning.

Jenkins fears this scam may evolve from porn threats into something more people may actually fall for.

"It is showing an old password, but it could potentially get a new password and people that automatically upload their photos to a cloud could be hacked one day and actually have their photos out there,” said Jenkins.

There are a number of things consumers can do to protect themselves.

For one, don't pay the extortionists.

Use good computer security practices, such as never reusing passwords or opening links and attachments from unknown sources.

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If you believe you have been a victim of this scam, contact the FBI, and file a complaint with the IC3 here.

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