Sexploitation scam startles people after stolen passwords appear on emails

AKRON, Ohio - A terrifying email scam using stolen passwords and sextortion is trying to scare many out of their money.

There are variations of the blackmail threat, but in most cases, a password that someone once used or is still using appears in the subject line of the email.

The hackers claim to have "evidence of your secret" after installing malware on adult video sites.

The email explains web cameras were hacked and recordings were made of the person watching the pornography.

The hackers then demand anywhere from $1,000 to $3,600 in bitcoin or the video will be released to all contacts, including family members and co-workers.

"It's a non-negotiable offer, thus please do not ruin my personal time and yours," one hacker wrote. "The clock is ticking."

"It's really electronic blackmail," cybersecurity expert Tim Dimoff said. "This is a very well-structured blackmail. Boy, it looks believable."

However, it's all a nasty scam. There are no videos and the hackers may have one of your passwords, but they don't have all of your information.

"If you look in the body of the email, they're not using your name. They're not saying what specific website you might be going to and they don't have a screenshot of you," said Christy Page, the president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau in Akron.

Page said more than 130 complaints have reported nationwide through BBB's scam tracker.

It's not clear how many of those people gave up the ransom, but it's estimated $250,000 has been paid this year by people frightened by the threat.

"The fear of embarrassment can be very powerful to get you to part with your money," Page said.

Dimoff and Page said the hackers likely used the dark web to buy passwords that were stolen during data breaches and the hackers can be very difficult to track.

Page said anyone who receives the email should not pay any money or respond to it.  However, passwords should be changed immediately.

In addition, Page said people should consider using a password manager and a web camera cover for extra peace of mind. Some BBB offices offer the covers for free.

Consumers who want to find out if their passwords have been compromised can go to the security website Have I been Pwned which collects information on data breaches.

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