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Security & privacy

With everyone on Zoom, this dangerous scam is out of control

Those of us who grew up during the internet’s early days remember the warnings. Young people were told never to share information. Adults sought to protect their children with lectures and net nannies.

Though we are generally smarter browsers nowadays, bad actors have evolved tactics accordingly. Teens are being targeted via chat and dating apps. Scammers either ask for explicit photos from the victim or send such images themselves. Following this, they demand compensation and threaten exposure. Tap or click here to read about this new form of sextortion.

You could be a victim without even providing anything to the scammer. A recent report shows how scammers are playing on people’s fears and using video chat platforms’ popularity against them. Read on to see how you can protect yourself.

Here’s the backstory

The pandemic has change how many of us communicate. More people use video conferencing than ever before, be it for work or keeping in touch with friends and family.

Avast says it has blocked more than half a million attacks by scammers who are using people’s propensity for video calls against them. Most of these attacks took place in the U.S. and U.K. There are a couple versions of the scam making the rounds.

In the first, scammers send threatening emails saying that they hacked the recipient’s Zoom to catch them during a sexual act. They will use this compromising information against them unless $2,000 in Bitcoin is sent.

The second scheme sees scammers sending emails claiming they inserted a Trojan into the would-be victim’s computer. They claim to have access to webcam and microphone recordings, chats and social media, as well as a list of contacts. There is a countdown that will expose this private data unless a ransom is paid.

Tap or click here to read how scammers used the Jeffrey Toobin scandal to play against people’s fears of being exposed.

Smoke and mirrors

Scammers have a clever trick to catching people off guard. The email they send out seems to have come from the recipient themselves. The display name matches their own, though it’s actually a separate email address.

The truth is that these online predators have nothing on their victims. The scammers in these cases have no access to your webcam or your private information.

In some cases, scammers send stolen usernames and passwords to prove they have access to your data, but this is stuff they got from previous data breaches or the Dark Web, not your computer.

How to avoid playing the victim

The first thing to do is relax. These scammers don’t have anything on you. Their emails are essentially spam. Ignore them completely.

There are more steps you can take to protect yourself from scams in general. Here are a few suggestions:

Keep reading

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