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Following a recent investigation, security company Area 1 found that nearly $1 million worth of bitcoins have been claimed in an email scam currently in circulation, which says that the recipient has been recorded watching porn on their computer and threatens to forward said non-existent videos to your friends and family.

Porn email scams typically contain a threat – in this case, stating that visual material of the victim watching pornography has been captured and will be sent out to their entire contacts list – and an ultimatum. In this most recent scam, a payout of around $600 (0.073 Bitcoin) was requested.

Nevertheless, Area 1 says that this spate of scams, like so many others, is fake.

The reason why so many people fall for it is because scammers often combine these threats with personal data obtained from data breaches, which adds to the illusion that the webcam threat is real.

How to avoid scammers

First and foremost, stop paying out. Report anything that looks suspicious to the authorities, or to online anti-phishing agencies, who will likely also tell you to ignore it completely.

Fortune reported that Oren Falkowitz, owner of Area 1, told one of his clients “to delete [the email] and go to sleep.”

Data breaches happen more often than you may expect. You can check if your data has been exposed via Have I Been Pwned to see if anyone may have obtained your private information. Of course, the standard advice to regularly change your password – and to use strong ones – also applies.

And for piece of mind regarding anyone recording you while you use your computer, all you need to do is cover your webcam with tape or using a webcam cover.

Blackmail via explicit imagery is not exactly unheard of, and these fears are fostered in media examples such as the Black Mirror episode Shut Up and Dance. In this case the victim was in fact watching illegal pornography, leading him down an uneasy road, portraying how far people may be willing to go to keep sensitive material private.

Needless to say, with the UK’s upcoming age verification law for accessing adult content coming into effect July 15, there are increasing concerns about the lack of clarity around data security. We’ve already seen from events like the Ashley Madison hack (and subsequent leak) that exposing this sort of information can have devastating individual consequences.

Read Next: South Africa ‘Porn Ban’ Proposal Resurfaces After 9 Year & Looks Suspiciously Like UK Age Verification Rules

Oli Lipski
Oli is a freelance sex tech researcher based in London. With an MA in Sexual Dissidence, researching sex tech, and a BA in History, researching gender and sexuality, she has a keen understanding of the past, present and future of sex.

South Africa ‘porn ban’ proposal resurfaces after 9 years, and it looks suspiciously like UK Age Verification rules

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