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Don’t get screwed by email extortion scams

Guelph (April 15, 2020) – Email extortion scams are circulating again. The Guelph police reported that they received several complaints about online fraud attempts. The police warn against these extortion attacks and recommend not to respond in any way to the anonymous sender. Last week, the Toronto police alerted the public about the same scam and advised that these emails are a phishing scam trying to extort money from the receiver.

Email extortion scams are on the rise. Police currently issued several warnings against the online fraud type. Guelph police informed about several public complaints in connection with email extortion scams in a press release on April 14.

Email extortion scams

Guelph police received several public complaints on April 13 reporting extortion emails. Police said that the victims received an email from an anonymous sender. In the message, the scammer tries to blackmail the recipient into sending money by claiming to be in possession of personal information and pictures of the recipient.

The Guelph authorities warn against the email extortion scam and advise the public not to respond in any way to the anonymous scammer.

Last week, the Toronto police made a similar announcement while issuing a warning against email extortion scams. Toronto police described that in these fraudulent emails, the scammer includes the recipient’s email password. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) explained that the fraudsters try to prove their access to personal information or that the victim’s computer was hacked by citing the password. However, the password was obtained by the fraudster in a previous data breach and does not verify the fraudster’s claims, according to the CAFC.

The Toronto police also stated that the online rogues claimed to be in possession of compromising or explicit photos or videos of their victim, which were used to extort about $1900 in Bitcoin from the victims. The fraudsters threatened the recipient with releasing the supposedly compromising material to the victim’s friends if the requested amount would not be paid.

‘The Toronto Police would like to advise that emails of this nature are a phishing scam in a bid to extort money from the receiver,’ stated the press release.

Types of extortion fraud

Email extortion is not the only type of extortion fraud that is circulating in Canada. The CAFC lists eleven types of extortion frauds that are commonly reported.

In the hydro scam, fraudsters claim to be an employee of a local or provincial hydro company and threaten their victims with turning off the power if an alleged unpaid balance is not evened. Immigration extortionists intimidate their victims into paying money by leveraging deportation, loss of passport or citizenship.

The CRA scam is an infamous version of extortion fraud. Especially while tax season, bogus CRA or Service Canada employees claim that their victims owe back taxes, or have unpaid balances, or committed a financial crime and threaten them with arrest, fines, or deportation.

Another type of extortion fraud is the usage of ransomware. This cyber tool is often used to extort institutions or businesses – but not exclusively – into paying huge sums of money to restore the encrypted information.

Extortion – number one in fraud reports in 2019

The CAFC educated the public that the victim’s computer has not been hacked in most email extortion cases. However, fraudsters try to create a sense of urgency and fear to convince their victims into paying the requested money. In doing so, sometimes the online fraudsters imitate a person in authority or a known person by spoofing emails or phone numbers. Through this coercion, the scammers unlawfully obtain money, property or services from their victims.

Read more: Reports of CRA extortion scam on the rise

In 2019, the CAFC ranked extortion as the most reported fraud type by number. Thereby, Canadians lost $9.2 million to extortion scams in the previous year.