Since 2018, a constant stream of extortion email scams have been targeting users with fake threats designed to scare you into sending a payment in bitcoins to avoid an embarrassing leak or threat of legal action.

These extortion emails are being sent through large spam botnets or through smaller campaigns undertaken by lone attackers.While more people have become aware of these attacks, the amount of extortion emails being sent out continues to trend upward as attackers continue to create new variants.

According to a new report by Symantec, between January 1st and May 29th, 2019 they have blocked approximately 289 million extension emails from reaching their clients.

“Between January 1 and May 29, 2019, just under 289 million of these types of emails were blocked by Symantec technologies,” Symantec stated in a report. “Just over 85 million of these emails (almost 30 percent) were blocked during this 17-day period in February when we saw a big spike in these types of scams. We didn’t just see a surge in one particular type of scam in this period, but a surge in a few different variations of extortion scam emails”.

Below we have summarized all of the extortion scams seen by BleepingComputer in 2019.  These scams range from your common “sextortion” scams to outlandish about a hitman targeting you.

A look at the different extortion scams

No matter the theme of an extortion scam, their goal is all the same. To scare you into thinking the attackers have information or video about you so that you make a bitcoin payment to avoid the information from being released.

Below we take a look at the different types of extortion scams that we have seen over the past year.

Sextortion: Hackers have a video of you on adult web sites

In July 2018, sextortion scams burst onto the scene where scammers were stating that they infected your computer with malware that allowed them to take webcam video of you while on an adult web site. 

To make these scams more convincing, the scammers would also include old passwords of yours that they found in data breach dumps, phone numbers, and email addresses.

These scams were extremely successful and were able to rake in over $50,000 in a single week. In some cases, the sextortion emails were also distributing malware such as ransomware and information stealing Trojans.

A hitman has been hired to kill you theme

Another extortion campaign that was seen in December 2018 was one that stated a Hitman was hired to kill you. The email sender, though, would call off the hit and take out the hitman if you paid them $4,000.

Bomb threat email extortion scams

Also In December 2018 we saw a campaign that stated a bomb was placed in your building and that they would detonate it unless you paid them $20,000. These bomb threat emails led to wide-spread panic, constant reports to the police, and was widely reported to the media.

CIA Investigation extortion emails

In March 2019, a new extortion email start being sent that pretended to be from a CIA technical collection officer who says that you are part of a investigation into child pornography. The email went on to say that if you pay them $10,000, they would wipe your info from the case.

Threats that you will be infected with WannaCry, DDoSed, and have docs sent to IRS

In April 2019, an extortion campaign was started where attackers stated that they would install WannaCry on your network and then DDoS it. They also state that they found hidden documents that they would report to the tax authority. All of this would go away if you paid them 2 bitcoins.

Sex tape extortion email

In May 2019, a new extortion email campaign stated that the sender had intercourse with you a long time ago and had secretly recorded it. They then state that they stole all of your passwords and contact lists while you were in the bathroom.

Unless you want your sex tape sent to all of your contacts you would need to pay them $1,500.

Threats that they will ruin your site’s reputation

In June 2019, we saw a new extortion campaign where the attackers state that they would ruin your site’s reputation by spamming with your domain name, leaving negative reviews, and submitting nasty message on other site’s contact forms. To pretend this you had to pay approximately $2,400.

What was interesting about this scam is that the scammers left a contact phone number to call. BleepingComputer called this number, but just went to voicemail.

US State Police extortion scams

In July 2019, a new extortion campaign started where scammers pretended to be US State Police who state that the email recipient has been involved in child pornography. As they retiring, they are offering to delete the evidence if the recipient sends them $2,000 in bitcoin.

Below is a small portion of the email that is being sent out.

That it for now, but I am sure as time goes on we will see even more outlandish extortion emails released. Just be smart, don’t worry, and delete them if you receive them.

Source: BleepingComputer| By Lawrence Abrams | August 4, 2019 |

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