Industry News

FBI warns extortion scams are on the rise amid stay-at-home orders

Amid the coronavirus lockdown and social distancing measures, cybercriminals have found new ways to continue their attacks against consumers worldwide. Making a quick buck has always been the top priority, so as we all turn to our Internet-enabled devices to communicate with the outside world, scams are spreading like wildfire.

The FBI, which has been on top of the covid-19-related scams since the beginning, has sent out a new announcement warning the public about a rise in online extortion scams.

“Because large swaths of the population are staying at home and likely using the computer more than usual, scammers may use this opportunity to find new victims and pressure them into sending money,” The FBI says.

Most common extortion indicators

Like most online extortion scams, the perpetrators apparently don’t spend much time or effort on drafting their so-called ‘letter’. However, you should keep in mind that schemes are constantly adapted to keep up with current events or new online trends:

• The attacker will attempt to contact you in an email – if you read the text closely, you’ll notice grammatical errors.

• The perp might provide your username or password – It’s not uncommon for an attacker to have your credentials. Most of the time, this information is scraped from previous data breaches. If available, they will include these details to add authenticity to their threat.

• The message will contain dirty little secrets or accusations that can range from visiting adult websites to even cheating on a spouse.

• There is always an explanation for how the extortionist gathered the information – most of the time, the perp will state that your device is infected with malware, or that they have recorded you using your webcam.

• The message will always contain threats – to scare recipients, the criminal will claim that he will send or reveal the information to all of your closest family and friends, or expose the compromising ‘video’ online.

• You are instructed to make a payment in Bitcoin – the attacker will provide you with a small window to pay up and make him go away ‘forever’.

How can you protect yourself?

While none of us are spared from receiving such emails, the best course of action is to ignore the message completely. If you delve too much into the information provided, the scammer is halfway to success.

Make sure that you change your account passwords regularly and do not attempt to communicate with the extortionist or ask for additional information. When you’re browsing online or chatting with new acquaintances, don’t provide personal information, and try not to store sensitive information or videos on your online accounts.

If you receive any kind of email from a cybercriminal, the FBI urges you to always file a complaint and provide any relevant information including the e-mail address used by the fraudster and his Bitcoin address.

Stay Safe!

About the author

Alina Bizga

Alina has been a part of the Bitdefender family for some years now, as her past role involved interfacing with end users and partners, advocating Bitdefender technologies and solutions. She is a history buff and passionate about cybersecurity and anything sci-fi. Her spare time is usually split between her two feline friends and traveling.