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What is sextortion and how can you avoid it?

Imagine your most intimate moments exposed and sent to all of your contacts. Sounds like your worst nightmare? This is exactly what sextortion is all about. Scammers take over their victims' sexual and threaten to publish it online unless a ransom is paid. Let's see how criminals corner their victims and how you can protect your privacy.

Karolis Bareckas

Karolis Bareckas

What is sextortion and how can you avoid it?

How do scammers set the trap?

1. Phishing

Phishing is one of the most common methods of sextortion. You receive an email claiming that the sender has cracked one of your accounts and now possesses your sexually explicit content. Scammers ask for money or might even demand to film and send them intimate videos. To prove they’re not joking, their sextortion email may also include your credentials, which they most likely found on some breached database.

Criminals do their homework well: they might know your employer, your partner’s name, and the squash club you regularly visit. It makes their demands more convincing and in a state of shock victims tend to pay up.

2. Malware

Hackers use malware to take control over your camera, microphone, and even record what you type on your keyboard. You may not have the slightest idea that somebody is snooping on you, when one day you receive a message with intimate footage and a demand for money. There are even websites broadcasting hacked cameras online, disturbing as it might sound.

3. Attacks on social media and dating sites

Blackmailers, like social media cyberbullies, use online platforms to attack you. Criminals gain their victims’ trust and convince them to perform sexual acts on camera. While this might seem like a game at first, soon victims realize that their videos are held for ransom. It’s estimated that 71% of sextortion victims are under the age of 18. Criminals often conduct the attacks from foreign countries, making it hard for local police to catch them.

4. Hacked accounts

1 in 5 people have had their accounts hacked at least once. Social media messaging archives are full of naked pictures from beach parties, sex videos of couples, and morning selfies in the shower. This is a gold mine for hackers looking to get a dime. Once they find an account with valuable footage, they demand money and it can be hard to retrieve the content. Many cases are left unreported, as the victims are often too embarrassed to contact law enforcement.

How to protect yourself from scammers

  • Be careful with email attachments. Never open email attachments from people you don’t know and always double check if the email address is valid. Scammers may pretend to be your employers, friends, or bank clerks. Once you open a suspicious attachment, you may install malware on your computer without even realizing it. And that’s a straight way to hacking your camera or stealing your personal information.
  • Never send sexual content to strangers. If you barely know the person and have never met them in the real world, don’t send them sexual pictures and videos. While it might sound obvious, many people still fall into this trap. When you want to share intimate moments with someone you know and trust, don’t send them anything via emails or messaging apps unless the content is thoroughly encrypted.
  • Use strong passwords. Avoid using the same password for all your accounts and update passwords regularly. Many sextortion attacks happen because of exposed passwords, so taking good care of them is one way to avoid problems. We recommend using long scrambled passwords consisting of special characters, letters, and numbers.
  • Get a VPN. VPN redirects your traffic through an encrypted tunnel to make your browsing private and your sensitive information secure. NordVPN masks your IP address, making sure that it’s not linked to your identity. We recommend keeping your VPN turned on at all times to lower the risk of being hacked and losing your intimate content. NordVPN also has the Threat Protection feature that helps you identify malware-ridden files, stops you from landing on malicious websites, and blocks trackers and intrusive ads.

Cybersecurity experts warn that sextortion crimes are on the rise, so it’s important to stay cautious online. If you have any questions on how to protect your privacy, do not hesitate to contact our team.

Also available in: Italiano.

Karolis Bareckas
Karolis Bareckas Karolis Bareckas
Karolis is a tech geek who writes about cybersecurity, online privacy, and the latest gadgets. When not rattling his keyboard, he’s always eager to try a new burrito recipe or explore a new camping spot.