The Scams Just Keep Coming

Example extortion scam email

The Scams Just Keep Coming: a reader asks…

I received and email from myself that I didn’t send, how does that happen? To make things worse, the note starts off with some bad news – a hacker had gained access to my account and my computer, and then proceeded to tell me about bad stuff they had seen me do (porn, etc.). They said they had recorded videos and if I didn’t pay them money in Bitcoin, they’d send those videos to everyone I know. Of course I didn’t do any of the disgusting things they said, but in these days of deepfake videos, am I going to have to pay this extortion money?

No, you don’t need to pay anything. This is a scam, a simple blackmail attempt where the scammer bought a list of email addresses from the dark web, crafted the email you got and personalized it with the name and email addresses from the list (a simple “Mail Merge” operation). They then sent this out to the hundreds, thousands, and probably tens of thousands of email addresses. It likely took very little money and work on the scammer’s part, and they are almost guaranteed to successfully fool at least a few people into paying their extortion. Don’t be fooled.

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This is no different than any of the other email scams still circling the internet, such as the Nigerian Prince scam which still rakes in hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to scammers. The scammers know there are always a few gullible souls out there. Since the cost of sending these scams out is so low, they cast very wide nets, and their success keeps them going. What’s worse, a lot of other scam outfits have sprung up ostensibly to help protect you from the extortion attempts, or to negotiate with the scammers.

graphic-list-of-junk-mail-spam-image-from-shutterstock

The simplest thing to do is to learn to recognize and ignore these scam attempts. Don’t bother trying to find out how to report this to the authorities, there are over 3.4 billion of these scam emails sent out every day. The scammers use many methods to obfuscate the originator’s identity and location so they can’t be traced. In your case, the scammer used your own email address, but could just as easily used any email address. The sad fact is that even in 2023, it’s incredibly easy to fake email From lines.

And these scammers use millions of unique fake addresses, so even marking the email as spam (or reporting it as junk email) is of marginal utility. Since this scammer used your own email address, you don’t want to report that email to your service provider, since that could result in getting you added to spam lists. So just delete it and go on with your life.


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