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Extortion Scams on The Rise: What to Do About Them?

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Extortion, in the literal sense, refers to the inappropriate use of force or threat in order to get something.

This means that a person, i.e., is commonly known as the victim or even their close friends and/or, family, is threatened in order to extract something out of it.

This something may include important information, money property, etc.

As most of the world has gone into lockdown due to the onset of the COVID-19 caused by the Coronavirus, all sorts of cybercrime have been on the rise not just in one specific country, but on a more global scale.

These crimes include Phishing attacks, data compromise, ransomware, hacking, information leaking, etc. Due to this sudden rise of cybercrimes all around the world, the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) has posted a Public Sector Announcement related to the same.

A sudden rise on extortion scams has been noted in the duration of the “Stay-At-Home” order passed in various countries, due to the pandemic.

The further added that the main cause of this is the sudden increase in traffic on the internet, that has given malicious hackers the opportunity.

It has also been noted that a lot of these people that are causing these scams have been threatening a ton of people to release important personal data such as sexual content, which includes private photos as well as videos if they are not paid the amount of money that has been demanded.

VPN app on a phone
Photo by Petter Lagson on Unsplash

Well, this is a situation that could have been avoided easily by the people by using a VPN. A VPN enables you to browse the internet discreetly and also prevents hackers from being able to access your personal and confidential data. This is now usually happening via email.

As it has been noted above, there are a ton of extortion scams that have risen to the surface, with the onset of the pandemic.

Now, this does not mean that they are all the same. What this means is that each of these scams is different than the other but have very few similarities. Some of these include-

  1. Unknown sender- These scams usually take place via email, where a person receives messages from an unknown source. This could be a single person or even a group of people. Most of the times these mails are also written in incorrect English
  2. Personal information noted- In some cases, in order to add to the threat, these scammers also mention private data such as usernames and passwords.
  3. False Accusations- In certain cases, victims are also falsely accused of having visited platforms such as pornographic websites, cheating on a spouse, or even being involved in other compromising situations.
  4. Source of information- Additionally, these messages also fact that mainly talk about how exactly these people got access to this private data. They look something like this-

“I had serious spyware and adware infect your computer,” or “I have a recorded video of you.”

  1. Monetary Threat- In most common, a lot of these messages also consist of threats, victim, claiming that if their demands are not met well in time, they will release private data among the person’s family, friends, co-workers, or any possible person(s) the victim might be in touch with.
  2. Payment Window- Another commonality between these scams that has been noted is that, in cases where the demand is usually in monetary terms, an exceedingly small period of time is provided to the victim in order to gather the needed funds and make the payment. It has also been noted that this duration typically ranges from 24-48 hours.
  3. Form of payment– Furthermore, these messages also consist of various instruction, telling the recipient(s)  how and where to pay the payment is to be done. For example- Bitcoins, to maintain a high degree of anonymity, or even bank details for that matter.

 

That being said, every problem comes with a solution. So, if problems such as extortion scams have been bestowed upon us, all thanks to the FBI, they have also provided a set of instructions that are to be followed, in order to protect ourselves against the scams:

  1. Avoid the Unknown- This means that, mails received from unknown sources must not be opened.
  2. Monitor Bank Details- According to this, a person’s bank information which included bank account statements, credit report, etc. at least once a year for any unusual activity.
  3. Do not communicate with unsolicited email senders.
  4. Always use a VPN to access the internet as it will not only hide your identity but will also make it impossible for hackers to extract your personal information.
  5. Do not store sensitive or embarrassing photos or information online or on your mobile devices.
  6. Use strong passwords and do not use the same password for multiple websites.
  7. Never provide personal information of any sort via email. Be aware that many emails requesting your personal information appear to be legitimate.
  8. Ensure security settings for social media accounts are activated and set at the highest level of protection.
  9. Verify the web address of legitimate websites and manually type the address into your browser.

With the rising importance of the internet in our lives, it is important to take all the steps possible to hide your identity and protect your details.

This can easily be achieved with the help of a VPN. It will ensure that nobody is able to access your details while you are using the internet. Thus, you can browse the net with complete peace of mind.

 

 
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