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With online security breaches becoming the new norm, Better Business Bureau advises consumers to be on the lookout for threatening emails. BBB is warning the public about sextortion emails from scammers trying to blackmail recipients into giving them money.

Sextortion emails typically include threats to reveal images and videos of the victim watching or using pornography, copies of their browser history or evidence that they downloaded videos from pornographic sites. The increase in this type of scam is believed to be due to scammers getting access to legitimate usernames and passwords that were exposed during major security breaches.

How the scam works: The scammer will contact people whether or not they visited pornographic sites and claim they have hacked their computer and activated their webcam. They will share that they have been able to access all the porn sites the victim has visited. The scammer then threatens to send embarrassing images, videos and screenshots to stolen contacts, family, friends and co-workers if payment is not made.

Recent submissions to BBB Scam Tracker show the criminals want to be paid in bitcoin, a virtual currency that is difficult to trace. Hackers are getting bolder and smarter, and because of this, everyone is at risk of getting a sextortion email. Scammers will happily play on a person’s emotions to trick them out of their money.

Here are some BBB tips to help you identify and protect yourself from sextortion emails. Red flags include:

• The scammer does not provide any details about what site you supposedly visited.

• The scammer cannot support his or her threat with any evidence.

• The scammer requests an urgent ransom to be paid in bitcoin, gift cards, or wire transfer.

A consumer can protect oneself by:

• Never sending compromising images of yourself to anyone, no matter who they are.

• Not responding no matter what the email threatens. Also, delete the email.

• Not opening attachments or clicking links in emails from people you do not know. Doing so could lead you to a fake website designed to trick you into giving up personal information or you may unknowingly download malware to your device.

• Never sending money, buying a gift card or doing anything to comply with the demands in the email.

• Giving yourself peace of mind by keeping webcams covered when you are not using them.

• Checking to see if your email was compromised in a security breach.

Go to bbb.org for more information or call 888-996-3887.

Michelle Gleba is the Mid-Missouri regional director for Better Business Bureau.

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