Sextortion is an online crime that combines sex and extortion – the crooks say that they have embarrassing pictures of you, and they’ll send the pictures to your friends and family…
…unless you pay the blackmail money.
To make the scam seem more believable, the crooks typically claim to have acquired the pics via your own webcam by hacking into your computer using malware and snooping on your online activities.
Sadly, this sort of malware, known as a remote access trojan (RAT), is not only technically possible but has been used in the past in a number of widely publicized attacks.
Even if you never look at porn, sextortion emails are pretty confronting, and raise the question, “How much might the crooks know about me?”
Sometimes, sextortion emails arrive apparently from your own account, which frightens a lot of people into thinking the crooks already have access to their computer.
What to do?
Most email programs, including webmail services such as Outlook.com and Gmail, automatically fill in the From: part for you and won’t let you pretend to be someone else – but that’s your email software protecting you from yourself.
The crooks don’t use that sort of email software – they use spam-sending “mail cannon” programs that let them structure their messages however they like, such as those spoofed emails you so often see.
So, don’t freak out! Just delete it.
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