Extortion Phishing Emails

Phishing Campaign

Over the last few weeks, we have seen a rise in phishing emails that aim to extort victims by convincing them that their accounts have been compromised.  Although these claims are almost universally false, they rely on certain tactics to boost their credibility and confuse the victims that receive them.  One common tactic is for the phishing email to say, “I know your password”, then offer an old password to one of the victim’s accounts.  These phishing emails may also use phone numbers and user names when attempting to establish their credibility.  After establishing credibility, the phish proceeds to threaten the victim by claiming that private information about the victim will be released unless the victim fulfills a demand like sending bitcoin to the phisher’s wallet. 

If you receive one of these phishing emails, then DO NOT fulfill the phisher’s demand.  Report the phish immediately to [email protected].

Extortion Phish FAQs

If this is fake, then how did they get my old password?

 Whenever there’s a major breach of account credentials, user names and passwords show up for sale on the dark web.  If you recognize the password in the email sent by the phish as one of your old passwords, then it was likely acquired after such a breach.  This is why it is very important to change your password periodically, and critical to change your password when you are notified of a possible breach of one of your accounts.  For more information on whether or not an email account has previously experienced a breach, go to https://haveibeenpwned.com/ to find out.  Report any outstanding concerns you have to [email protected].

Is there any way to prevent me from receiving this type of phish in the future?

Unfortunately, no.  As noted above, the important thing to do is to make sure that you change your passwords.  A password manager is a great tool for handling password rotation.  UVA is now offering a free year of LastPass to all members of its community.  Take advantage of this great opportunity, and lock down your accounts today!

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