• Demystify Cyber

Fact Sheet - 'sextortion' emails

Updated: Mar 23

Cyber criminals are using increasingly sophisticated methods to exploit individuals and

businesses to obtain sensitive information and money. Extortion emails in general terms are

where a criminal threatens to release information of their target in compromising situations, or disrupt computer systems in some way, if a payment is not made. The criminals may use specific user information, such as passwords or mobile phone numbers, to add authenticity to their threats.


‘Sextortion’ emails are a specific type of extortion email where the criminals aim to

convince targets that they have intimate videos or images of them that they have ‘hacked’

from the target’s computer. The email demands a ransom payment in exchange for not releasing the (non-existent) images online or to the target’s family, friends, and workplace. The emails often contain passwords or other personal information belonging to the target to ‘prove’ veracity. The information is usually gleaned from past data or credential breaches.


Extortion email signs to look out for:

1. Personal information such as a user ID, password or phone number is noted in the e-mail

to add a higher degree of intimidation to the scam.


2. The email accuses the target of visiting adult websites, stealing, cheating on a spouse, or

being involved in other compromising situations.


3. The e-mail will contain sentences such as, “You do not know me and you are most likely

thinking why you are getting this email”, “Absolutely no one has compensated me to

investigate about you”, “I stumbled across your misadventures,” or “I installed malware

on the adult video site”.


4. The e-mail threatens to send a video or other compromising information to family,

friends, and colleagues if the ransom is not paid.


5. There is a very short time frame to pay and the ransom is usually to be paid in a form of

cryptocurrency.


These emails are scams, delete them!

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What to do if you are a victim of cybercrime


• Australia, please report the matter via https://www.cyber.gov.au/report

• UK, please report via report.ncsc.gov.uk

• USA, please report via https://www.ic3.gov/

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Written by A. Turner

© A. Turner 2021 https://www.demystifycyber.com.au/

Provided for general information and education purposes

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