By: ASC Team
Online Fraud & Sextortion

What is Sextortion?

Unlike Las Vegas, what happens on the Internet, stays on the Internet. You’re sitting at your desk. Your day started out like any other. You open your inbox, read your email and then…that sick, sinking feeling in your stomach grows and before you know it, you’re in an all-out panic. You’re a victim of sextortion. Sextortion is just the latest in a long list of crimes. Sextortion is the act of threatening to release compromising photos and videos online unless you pay a ransom, engage in sexual acts or hand over more intimate material. Plain and simple, it’s a form of blackmail. 


At first, you’ll probably think “there’s no way. No such videos or photos exist.” But then you continue to read the email and find out they’ve hacked into your webcam, or so they say, and created the material for you. At this point, a few expletives probably escape your mouth and then you wonder “now what?”

Unfortunately, the technology exists to allow hackers to take control of your webcam and there have been some well-publicized offenses.  In the age of the Internet and Social Media, we value our privacy more than ever, so being fearful of such an attack is not all in your head. However, in most cases, this is an empty threat. 

It’s not uncommon for sextortion emails to appear to come from your own email. It’s a sneaky little trick, making it seem even more likely that your computer has in fact been hacked. Cybercriminals use something called a “mail-cannon.” This is a spam sending program that allows the user to structure an email in any way they wish, including making it look as if they are using your own email. 

So Now What Do You Do?

First and foremost, keep your wits about you. Don’t panic and for heaven’s sake, don’t give in to their demands! Chances are this is a threat that cannot be carried out. Simply trash the email, change your passwords (for good measure) and carry on with your day. 

Now with that said, there are a few things you can do proactively to prevent cybercriminals from scaring the wits out of you in the first place.

Use Strong Passwords – this is a no brainer. Using your birthday, initials or “password,” makes it much more likely that your computer will, in fact, be hacked, turning an empty threat into a much more menacing one.

Don’t Do the Work for Them – again, this should go without saying. Even if it’s just to your significant other, don’t send intimate pictures or videos via email, Social Media or any other form of technology.  

Don’t Open Suspect Attachments – don’t open any attachments unless you know who sent you the email. One of the most common methods of hacking is via links in emails, or phishing, giving cybercriminals the ability to access sensitive information on your computer, including your webcam.

Turn off Your Webcam – unless you’re using your webcam, turn it off. If it’s not on, it’s a lot more difficult for it to be used without your knowledge. If you’re unsure of how to do so or worried that it could be turned on, consider putting a piece of tape over the camera when not in use.  

Monitor Computer Usage - sadly many of the victims of sextortion are children. Often embarrassment leads to minors acquiescing to the criminal's demands and sending intimate materials that can then be used to carry out the original threat. 

Encryption is a Must – if you do have intimate materials stored on your computer, consider encrypting them, which makes accessing the files more difficult. Encrypted material is impossible for anyone who intercepts it to read.  

Don’t Be Afraid to Report It – sextortion can be an embarrassing subject to discuss, particularly if actual material is out there. However, unless the proper authorities know about it, nothing can ever be done to stop future attacks from happening worldwide. 

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