Stay Secure- Extortion Scams (Part 1)

Happy Valentine's Day, York University! In continuation of the previous post about ransomware, we're going to summarize another couple of ways hackers may try to get your information.

Extortion scams all work on the same basis: Scaring or tricking the victim into giving money or personal information to the hacker. Ransomware, as we've discussed, limits access to files and threatens deletion unless payment is made by the victim. For this reason, the most important things to do when encountered with one of these scams is to remain calm.

Hostage Scams: Usually targeting companies, scammers will communicate by email or phone call, impersonating official government bodies such as "National Defense". These scammers will attempt to coerce companies to pay ransom for employees the scammers have supposedly taken "hostage". The best way to deal with these scams is to:

  • Contact police as soon as possible.
  • Pay attention to the source of communication, such as phone area code or email address.
  • Scammers may attempt to disrupt communication between "hostage" and company.
  • Scammers will most often request a wire transfer.

Sextortion: These scammers will attempt to gain explicit content created by the victim by catfishing (impersonating a different person to trick the victim) them. Once sexually explicit content has been obtained, they will extort the victim for money or personal information under threat of sending the content to the friends/family/coworkers in the victim's life. In order to avoid sextortion:

  • Deny requests to perform sexual acts over the internet.
  • Turn off and cover video cameras when they are not in use.
  • Ensure any illicit material shared online is kept to trusted contacts.

We will be covering a couple more types of extortion scams soon, so stay tuned!


Stay Safe. Stay Secure.