Skip to Content
© Carmenmurillo | Dreamstime.com
Coronavirus

This convincing extortion scam uses coronavirus fears to trick you

The coronavirus pandemic already has many of us on edge. The last thing we need to add to the mix is a bunch of criminals trying to take advantage of this dire situation.

Unfortunately, crooks have no shame and we’ve seen plenty of coronavirus-related scams making the rounds. Tap or click here for 8 tips to avoid them.

Brace yourself. The scams are going to keep on coming. The latest scheme plays on victims’ COVID-19 fears in an attempt to extort them out of big money.

Don’t be fooled by these con artists

Security researchers at Sophos have discovered a new despicable extortion scheme that’s going around. Victims who fall for it are having to shell out big bucks.

Here’s what’s happening: Scammers are using the same principles found in sextortion scams that we’ve reported on in the past. Remember those? Tap or click here for a reminder.

Scammers send emails to random people claiming they have nude photos or videos of their victims watching pornography. The crook tells the victim they will share this evidence with the victim’s family and friends unless they pay a fee to stop it.

RELATED: Coronavirus germs can survive on your tech – here’s how to disinfect it

Well, this coronavirus scam kicks it up a notch. Now, the scammers are emailing people with threats of infecting them and their entire family with coronavirus if they don’t pay $4,000.

The message begins with the crook claiming to know every secret about your life. Then they throw in some personal information they likely found on social media to make it seem like they actually do know sensitive things about you.

They also claim to know all of your online passwords, where you live, what you eat and more. To stop them from making all of your private information public and infecting your entire family with coronavirus, you must pay $4,000 in Bitcoin.

You’re given 24 hours to make the payment or the threats will be carried out. They say if you make the payment, they will erase all the personal information about you that they’ve gathered and won’t infect you with the coronavirus.

RELATED: Coronavirus – how to shop safely online and in-person

Can you believe a scam like this would work? It seems far-fetched, but with everyone already tense over COVID-19 there could be people who panic and pay the fee.

Don’t pay it. This is a scam.

How to avoid coronavirus extortion scams

The first thing to remember during worldwide events like the COVID-19 pandemic is scammers always use them to try to rip people off — especially through emails and texts.

Be cautious with links

You’ve probably noticed your email inbox full of coronavirus-related messages from pretty much every company you’ve ever conducted business with recently. And that’s fine, just don’t click any links found in those messages.

If you receive an unsolicited email or text dealing with coronavirus, don’t click any links. There is a chance the email is a phishing attack. Clicking on links or opening attachments could lead to your device being infected with malware or your login credentials being stolen.

The best course of action is to type the company’s web address directly into your browser. This way you know you’re going to the official site and not a malicious spoofed version. If you need to call your financial institution, use the phone number found on the back of your credit/debit card.

Never pay a ransom

Threatening messages demanding payment like the ones described in this article should be ignored. Never send money to these people.

Even if your device were to be infected with ransomware, the FBI recommends not paying the ransom. There’s no guarantee the criminal will return your files even if you pay. They are criminals, after all, and can’t be trusted.

Don’t reply to extortion messages

Whether you receive an extortion message like this via email or text, never reply. If you do, that lets the scammer know your phone number or email account is active and they will keep sending more threats.

Pass it on

Make sure to tell your family and friends about scams like this are making the rounds. The more people are made aware of them, the less likely they will fall for these tricks.

You can send them a link to this article or share it on social media. They will thank you for letting them know about this dangerous scam.

For more security threats and other goings-on during this pandemic, sign up for Kim’s free Security Alerts newsletter. It’s the best way to stay informed.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, advice, or health objectives.

Komando Community background

Join the Komando Community!

Get even more digital know-how and entertainment with the ad-free Komando Community! Watch or listen to The Kim Komando Show on your schedule, read Kim's eBooks for free, and get answers in the Tech Forum.

Join Now