Online extortion scams are on the rise in 2023. These scams involve criminals threatening to release sensitive information about their victims unless they pay a ransom. The information that criminals may threaten to release can include anything from personal photos and videos to financial data and passwords.
There are many different types of online extortion scams, but some of the most common include:
- Sextortion scams: Sextortion scams are a type of online extortion scam in which the victim is threatened with the release of sexually explicit photos or videos of themselves unless they pay a ransom. The scammers often pose as attractive people online and convince their victims to send them explicit photos or videos. Once the victim has sent the photos or videos, the scammer threatens to release them to the victim’s friends, family, or co-workers unless they pay a ransom. Sextortion scams are becoming increasingly common, and they can be very emotionally damaging for the victims. In some cases, the scammers have even threatened to release the photos or videos to the victim’s employer, which could lead to the victim losing their job.
- Tech support scams: Tech support scams are a type of online extortion scam in which the victim is tricked into believing that their computer has a problem and that they need to pay for technical support to fix it. The scammers often pose as representatives from a legitimate tech support company, and they may even spoof the caller ID to make it look like they are calling from a legitimate number. Once the victim has been convinced that their computer has a problem, the scammer will try to get the victim to give them remote access to their computer. The scammer will then use the remote access to install malware on the victim’s computer, or they may simply try to steal the victim’s personal information. Tech support scams are becoming increasingly common, and they can be very costly for the victims. In some cases, the scammers have even demanded thousands of dollars for their services.
- Phishing scams: Phishing scams are a type of online scam in which the victim is tricked into giving up their personal information, such as their username, password, or credit card number. The scammers often send emails or text messages that appear to be from a legitimate company, such as a bank or credit card company. The emails or text messages will often contain a link that, when clicked, will take the victim to a fake website that looks like the real website of the company. Once the victim enters their personal information on the fake website, the criminals can steal it. Phishing scams are one of the most common types of cybercrime, and they can be very costly for the victims. In some cases, the scammers have even been able to steal millions of dollars from victims.
- Romance scams: A romance scam is a type of online scam in which the victim is tricked into believing that they have found a romantic partner online. Romance scammers often use online dating websites and apps to find victims. They will create fake profiles that are designed to be appealing to their target audience. Once they have found a victim, they will start a conversation and quickly build up a relationship. The scammer will often use flattery and attention to make the victim feel special. They may also share personal information about themselves, such as their military service or their medical condition. Once the victim is emotionally invested in the relationship, the scammer will start asking for money or gifts. They may say that they need money for a medical emergency, a plane ticket, or a visa. The scammer may also ask the victim to send them gift cards or wire them money.
There are a number of things that people can do to prevent online extortion scams:
- Be careful about what information you share online. Don’t share any personal information that you wouldn’t want to be made public.
- Be wary of unsolicited emails and text messages. If you receive an email or text message from someone you don’t know, don’t click on any links in the message.
- Use strong passwords and keep them safe. Don’t use the same password for multiple accounts.
- Be aware of the latest scams. There are many resources available online that can help you stay informed about the latest scams.
If you think you’ve been the victim of an online extortion scam, there are a few things you can do:
- Don’t pay the ransom. Paying the ransom will only encourage the criminals to continue their activities.
- Report the scam to the authorities. You can report the scam to your local police department or to the FBI.
- Change your passwords. Change your passwords for all of your online accounts, including your email, bank accounts, and social media accounts.
Online extortion scams can be a serious problem, but there are steps that people can take to protect themselves. By being careful about what information they share online, using strong passwords, and being aware of the latest scams, people can help to reduce their risk of becoming victims of online extortion.
Additional tips for preventing online extortion scams:
- Be careful about what apps you download. Only download apps from trusted sources.
- Keep your software up to date. Software updates often include security patches that can help to protect your devices from malware.
- Use a firewall and antivirus software. A firewall can help to block unauthorized access to your devices, and antivirus software can help to detect and remove malware.
- Be careful about what links you click on. If you’re not sure if a link is legitimate, don’t click on it.
- Be aware of the latest phishing scams. Phishing scams are becoming increasingly sophisticated, so it’s important to be aware of the latest techniques that criminals are using.
How to report online extortion scams:
- If you think you’ve been the victim of an online extortion scam, you should report it to the authorities. You can report the scam to your local police department or to the FBI.
- You should also report the scam to the website or company that the criminals were pretending to be from. This will help them to protect their users from future scams.
- You can also report the scam to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). The IC3 is a government agency that collects information about cybercrime.
By reporting online extortion scams, you can help to protect yourself and others from becoming victims.