‘Pay the ransom – or watch me wreck your life’

‘Pay the ransom – or watch me wreck your life’: Chilling new fraud email that says you’ve been filmed on an adult website

  • The ‘ransom’ email explains that you have been caught viewing an adult website
  • The email includes key private details, such as secret passwords for a bank
  • Criminals are frightening victims into handing over £500 or more in Bitcoins

At first, the message seems harmless – an email pops up on your screen that could be from a friend or colleague.

But click on it and your blood will run cold. Because what follows is a string of vicious threats to destroy your life unless you hand over money.

The ‘ransom’ email explains that you have been caught viewing an adult website – captured on your computer’s camera.

To add credibility to the sting, the email includes key private details, such as your phone number and secret passwords for a bank or shopping account.

The effect is chilling, as Sarah Hartley, a Mail on Sunday journalist, found out for herself when she was targeted recently.

‘Like most journalists, I am as tough as old boots and used to dealing with all sorts. Yet what horrified me most about receiving such an email is that it breached my work firewall,’ she says.

‘That was my fault – the email name had looked credible. It came from a common female name and I had assumed it was a public relations adviser. So I clicked on the option to permit.

‘But when I read it I flushed hot and cold from head to toe – I was stunned by the sheer nastiness of the words. [see below].

‘If the person had been standing in front of me I felt they would have been wielding a knife. Adding to my sense of fear was that the email included a password I use for an online shopping account. A barrier had been broken.’

Hartley adds: ‘Although I knew I had not been watching pornography, the way I was threatened – that a video of me would be passed on to contacts if I dared breathe a word – was horribly menacing.

‘I would have been mortified to know my friends and work colleagues might be contacted in this way. The language was perfect – no hieroglyphics or request to send money to a Nigerian bank account – and that is what made it plausible.’

Hartley ignored the email. But criminals are frightening victims into handing over £500 or more in anonymous Bitcoins.

If they do not pay up, the blackmailer says they will share the details they have on the web.

Millions of computer users are being targeted in the sinister wave of ransom scams reputed to be cheating innocent people – targeted at random – out of at least £30million a year.

Personal information the blackmailers use to add credence to their claims can be bought for as little as £3 over the ‘dark web’ or ‘harvested’ using gadgets that can be purchased for about £40.

Colin Tankard is a cyber security expert who has been targeted himself by such criminals.

He says: ‘Ransomware can destroy lives.

‘There have been instances when people have committed suicide as a result of the horrible threats made.

‘It breaks up perfectly stable relationships and causes untold misery.’

Tankard, managing director of Harlow-based Digital Pathways, adds: ‘Part of the awfulness of such cyber attacks is that these emails are often sent randomly.

‘The criminal has no idea what a recipient has been doing – just making a guess.

‘Paying up is the worst thing a victim can do. You are then put on a ‘sucker list’.’

This means your name will be added to lists of people deemed susceptible to crime, which are then traded among criminals – invariably leading to victims receiving further demands for money.

Menacing language is used to make a victim feel insecure and vulnerable to the prey.

Tankard says: ‘Wording usually goes as follows, “While you were watching videos, your internet browser started out functioning as a remote viewer having a keylogger which gave me accessibility to your screen and web cam. After that, my software program obtained all your contacts.”

‘Then, “Well, in my opinion, $1,000 is a fair price for our little secret. You’ll make the payment by Bitcoin.”

Read the full article here in The Mail on Sunday