By CCN: Long ago the fear of going blind was drummed in people to prevent self-pleasure. Now the biggest fear seems to not being able to look your co-workers, friends and relatives straight in the eye if a compromising video of you lands in their hands. Scammers have realized this and are extorting bitcoin from victims and making a fortune out of it.
According to an investigation conducted by cybersecurity firm Area 1, sextortionists have so far made $949,000. Initially reported by Fortune, the report claims that the average payout by victims of sextortion is 0.073 bitcoin (about $585).
Typically, the email the scammers send their victims is formulaic. In the sextortion email the scammers will warn their selected targets that they possess videos of them watching porn. The fraudsters will claim to have obtained the video by installing malware on a porn website which the victim then unwittingly downloaded to their device.
The scammers then say they recorded the victim engaging in masturbation via their webcam. They may also claim that they were able to obtain the victim’s social and professional contacts using the malware. The scammers then threaten to send the videos to all the victim’s contacts.
At the bottom of the email, they will include an amount that they want sent to a bitcoin address. In most emails, the scammers will give their victims one day to make the payment.
If not, they will threaten to send the video they claim to have recorded to co-workers and close relatives. They promise to delete the video if the payment is made.
To convince their victims, the sextortionists will include the victim’s password in the blackmail email. However, more often than not, the scammers have obtained the victim’s password from an old data breach.
The scammers have also demonstrated sophistication in evading filters set by the major email providers. Per Area 1, one of the techniques they employed includes pasting lines from famous writers in the email’s invisible text.
The Area 1 report is corroborated by a previous investigation by U.K. cybersecurity firm Digital Shadows which in February disclosed that the average amount that sextortionists obtain from their victims is $540. As of September 2018, the top Bitcoin address used by the scammers had received over 480 bitcoins.
According to Bitcoin Who’s Who, by September 2018 such sextortion scams had been reported in 42 countries. The United States had the lion’s share with 30 percent of the sextortion scams being reported there.
The United Kingdom was also high on the list with 6 percent of the cases and recent reports indicate that it’s only growing. Just this month, UK’s national reporting center for cybercrime and fraud, Action Fraud, disclosed that more than 149 sextortion crime reports had been reported. Many more went unreported as victims, especially in these kinds of crimes, are usually too embarrassed to go public.
This article was edited by Samburaj Das.