Tips on how to stay safe online during the COVID-19 pandemic

Quick Exit

Click here to exit quickly,
browser history won't be cleared.

Deal with sextortion

Sextortion emails—SCAM ALERT

Beware of emails from scammers who threaten to release intimate footage of you unless you pay. 

We’re receiving many new reports about an existing email scam continuing to target Australian email accounts. Typically, the scammer claims to have hacked an individual’s webcam or computer and installed malware to capture intimate footage of the recipient. The emails may also contain a password, sourced from previous data leaks published online.  The recipient is given 24 hours to pay via Bitcoin or the footage will be released to their contacts. 
 
The email may look legitimate but it’s a scam. If this sounds like an email you’ve received, you should disregard it, don’t reply to the scammer and don’t give into any demands.
 
If you still use the password referenced in the email, change it immediately.

For more advice about what to do take a look at our information on sextortion scams.

Sextortion is a form of blackmail where someone threatens to share intimate images of you online unless you give in to their demands.

These demands are typically for money, more intimate images or sexual favours. Blackmailers often target people through dating apps, social media, webcams or adult pornography sites.

While sextortion can be used by individuals, organised crime is often behind it when the blackmailer demands money. Commonly the blackmailer is not based in Australia.

 

What are the warning signs?

Remember, it is not your fault. Anyone can experience sextortion, you are not alone and you have not done anything wrong.

Something does not add up — their online profile is not consistent with what you see and hear when you talk or chat with them.

It happens too fast — they express strong emotions for you almost straight away, and quickly tempt you across to a more private channel, suggesting you get nude or sexual in a video call.

They make excuses — they say their webcam is not working and instead send a nude photo which they claim is of them.

They say they need help — they say they need money for some sort of personal emergency like medical treatment or to cover the rent or even to travel to Australia.

What can I do?

Sextortion can be devastating for victims.

If you are in Australia and are experiencing sextortion, you can take the following steps:

  • Try to stay calm and make an image-based abuse report to report to eSafety — we will work with you to get the right outcomes.
  • Do not give the blackmailer any money or additional images and stop all contact with them.
  • If you are concerned about your physical safety call Triple Zero (000) or contact local police.
  • Change your passwords for all social media and online accounts, and review your privacy and security settings. See the eSafety Guide for more information.
  • Get support from a trusted friend, family member or an expert counselling and support service.

If you are a victim of sextortion and not in Australia:

Protect yourself from sextortion

Sextortion can be devastating but here are some tips to help deal with it wherever you live 

Do not pay. Do not give them any money or send any more pictures of yourself. Giving in to demands will actually make things worse — paying a blackmailer will only result in more demands for payment.

Collect evidence. Keep a record of all contact from the blackmailer, particularly any demands or threats and make a note of everything you know about them. This could include their Skype name and ID, Facebook URL and Money Transfer Control Number (MTCN). Have a look at the helpful resources on our how to collect evidence page.

Notify the relevant social media platform. Notify Skype, YouTube, or whichever app or social media service was used. Read helpful tips about reporting image-based abuse to social media platforms on our website and find direct reporting links in the eSafety Guide.

Stop all contact with the blackmailer. Block them and ask your friends to do the same. Consider temporarily deactivating your social media accounts (but do not delete them as you may lose evidence that way).

Secure your accounts. Change the passwords for your social media and online accounts and review the privacy and security settings of your accounts. For more information see the eSafety Guide.

Do not panic. Reach out instead — get support from a trusted friend or family member as well as an expert counselling and support service if you are feeling anxious or stressed.