Porn Scam

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Porn Scam: a reader asks…

I just sent you a threatening email I got. I have not been watching porn but this person knows some part of an older password I used to use. Can you advise on what I should do? This is scary and makes my skin crawl!

This is another creative scam thought up by hackers on the darkweb. For years now, lists have been for sale on the darkweb – lists of passwords and partial passwords along with names and partial names, email addresses and partial email addresses. Some hacker or hackers dreamed up this novel way to try to get money (bitcoin actually) out of people by using these lists to send a scary email with possible extortion material.

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You can relax, the only thing these hackers have is the list they bought that includes your name, email address and an old password you used to use. The only thing you should do is make sure you’re not using that password anywhere online anymore. The hackers don’t have any video of you, were not able to take over control of your computer to record you, and don’t have a list of your contacts from your messenger, social networks, or email. Hackers send millions of these emails out, they aren’t specifically targeting (and researching) you.

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I remember seeing this scam concept explored back in 2016, in the episode “Shut Up and Dance” of the Netflix show “Black Mirror“. I’m not saying that the hackers saw this and got ideas, they might have come up with the idea independently. But clearly, they know that there is potential money to be made in extorting potentially compromised folks. By using direct marketing tactics (sending millions of emails out from these darkweb lists), they are expecting that at least a small percentage of email recipients will be scared enough to pay the extortion money.

I expect hackers on the darkweb to expand this concept and try other blackmail target vectors like drug dealing/use or other criminal activity, or other blackmail-able activity like infidelity. The important thing to remember is that this is just a scam, the scenario displayed in the Netflix show is nothing like real life – these hackers are trolling for gullible people.

One Comment

  1. You can check out if any old (or current) email addresses have compromised passwords by using the database at https://haveibeenpwned.com/.

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