Sextortion attacks costing victims over $8bn a year, FBI claims

The FBI has claimed sextortion complaints have seen a ‘massive increase’ since the start of 2021, with the total financial losses accounting for over $8m.

According to Bleeping Computer, the FBI received over 16,000 sextortion complaints until July 31 this year – with almost half of them coming from victims in the 20-39 age range.

Sextortion – an email scam – occurs when criminals threaten potential victims through email, in person, dating sites and online chats that they will leak sensitive or private videos or photos if the victim does not duly pay them a ransom.

Commonly, the scammers behind email sextortion campaigns can also distribute various strains of malware including ransomware. Sextortion was first seen in July 2018.

Furthermore, Bleeping Computer highlighted that the cybercriminals can often secure to access to the victim’s social media and personal information, leading them to threaten the victim with sending the images and videos to their family and friends.

The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) highlighted that to protect youself from extortion attempts, you can do a range of things. This includes never sending ‘compromising’ images of yourself to anyone, do not open attachments from people who you don’t know and to turn off your electronic devices and web cameras when you are not using them.

The IC3 said, “Most victims report the initial contact with the fraudster is mutual and made using dating websites and apps. Soon after the encounter, the fraudster requests the interaction be moved from the website or app to another messaging platform,” the IC3 explained.

“The fraudster instigates the exchange of sexually explicit material and then encourages the victim to participate via video chat or send their own explicit photos. Immediately after the victim complies, the fraudster blackmails the victim and demands money to prevent the release of the photos or videos on social media.”

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