Extortion scams follow the basic premise that you need to hand over money urgently or face a predefined consequence, whether it be real or fabricated. Extortion schemes can be simple or extraordinarily complex, depending on the imagination of the perpetrator involved. Here are some of the online extortion scams to look out for.
Ransomware is a type of malware that involves an attacker encrypting your files with the promise of decrypting them only in return for a fee. One of the most notorious cases of ransomware was the 2017 WannaCry attack in which more than 400,000 machines were infected. Ultimately, criminals took an estimated $140,000 worth of bitcoin in exchange for decrypting users’ hijacked files. Backing up files regularly can help protect you against the threat of ransomware.
In this form of extortion, victims are typically lured into sharing intimate photos or videos, often through dating sites or social media. They may even be prompted to perform explicit acts while being secretly filmed. They are then asked to pay a fee to prevent the photos or videos from being released.
This terrifying scam involves threats of physical violence and even death, usually sent via email. The claim is often that the person sending the email has been hired to kill you and will relinquish their role in exchange for a fee. Emails might include personal details garnered from social media or other sources to make them seem even more threatening. Aside from going after your money, some scammers also try to obtain your personal information for use in identity theft.
This is a variation of the hitman scam that plays on today’s societal fear of terrorist acts. Again, the basic premise is that your life will be spared only if you pay up.
Another one playing on the fear of recent world events is the bomb threat scam. This is an email telling people that there is a bomb planted in their building and it can disconnected only if a certain fee is paid.
Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks are similar to ransomware attacks, except that instead of file encryption you often have whole websites or internet services taken down. Web servers hosting these sites and services are flooded with dummy traffic that overwhelms them, slowing the site down to a crawl or even shutting it down altogether. Victims are instructed to pay a fee to gain back control over the service. Businesses are often prime targets for this type of attack.