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Bitcoin Sex Scams Exploit Guilty Porn Voyeurs for $1.2 Million a Year

Originally published on: CCN Markets
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August 01, 2019

bitcoin sex scam targets guilty porn viewers

Bitcoin sex scammers are milking guilty porn voyeurs for a staggering $1.2 million worth of crypto every year. | Source: Shutterstock

Cybersecurity firm Symantec has warned that Bitcoin sextortion scams are on the rise, with scammers making a fortune by targeting people who watch porn – and don’t want their loved ones to know about it.

During the first five months of this year, the cybersecurity firm disclosed that it blocked approximately 289 million sextortion emails, but that didn’t stop the scammers from milking guilty porn viewers for more than $1 million.

How to recognize a Bitcoin sextortion scam

Most of these scams threatened to embarrass the recipients of the email by revealing their porn-viewing habits by claiming to have secretly been recording them. And in some rare cases, the scammers claimed to be law enforcement officers who had stumbled upon child pornography on a device owned by their target.

Per Symantec, the modus operandi of the scammers is basically mass-emailing as many addresses as possible using an amateurish template with poor spelling and unusual phrasing.

In cases where they may try to show proof that they possess confidential information such as a password or phone number associated with the target, the details have usually been obtained from recent data dumps.

Extortion emails scams are on the rise, and we’re sharing tips for identifying these deceptive shams on the blog. https://t.co/PAo2LnHZCO

— Symantec (@symantec) July 31, 2019

Crypto sex scammers are making more than $1 million every year

Given the low barriers to entry for Bitcoin sex scammers, the returns are attractive even when the response rate from targets is low.

After examining thousands of Bitcoin wallet addresses which were regularly included in the scam emails, Symantec identified 63 wallets which received 12.8 BTC in May 2019. Based on the Bitcoin price then, the cybersecurity firm estimates that the scammers received over $100,000 during that month. Taking that as the monthly average, the annual takings exceed $1.2 million.

“In total, the wallets received 12.8 bitcoins in that period—at the end of May one bitcoin was worth approximately US$8,300, meaning these wallets received a total of approximately US$106,240. If we take that as an average amount to make in a 30-day period for these kinds of scams, it means they are making just over US$1.2 million in a year ($1,292,586).”

Month of love is the high season of sextortionists?

But while previous months may have been less lucrative for the scammers since the Bitcoin price was lower, the rate of sending the sextortion emails was far higher, and thus increased chances of success, in some cases.

Bitcoin sextortion scam email chart
Sextortion emails spiked in February. | Source: Symantec

Nearly 30 percent of the ~300 million sextortion emails were blocked during a 17-day period in the month of February – right around the Valentine’s Day season. Whether the Bitcoin scammers thought that their targets might be more vulnerable to sextortion during the month of love is anyone’s guess.

The Rise of the Bitcoin Bomb-Scare

Besides sextortion, crypto scammers have turned to bomb-scare emails. In these scams, criminals threaten to blow up businesses unless owners send them Bitcoin.

bitcoin email scam
It’s remarkable that Bitcoin bomb-scares actually work. | Source: Symantec

Other than Bitcoin, another cryptocurrency that has proven popular with the scammers is Litecoin.

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