Today we will continue the “Fight Back” series of blog posts by looking at a few more ways that online scammers may try using in order to extort money out of unsuspecting internet users. At the end of this series you will have a good deal of knowledge and will be able to spot these scams at a glance.
Denial of Service Attacks (DoS)
The term DDoS is one that you may have heard at some point or another during your time online—depending on where you hangout I guess. DDoS stands for Distributed Denial of Service and is an attack carried out on a single system using a number of systems that are often infected with a virus. With this type of attack the systems being used to carry out the attack are under the control of the party carrying out the attack and are also victims of the attack. When a single system is used in the attack it is simply called a DoS attack. In both the “attacking” systems are used to flood the system being attacked, the difference being in a DDoS attack the flood will be coming from a number of different machines, over different internet connections, often from locations all over the world.
Some common types of DDoS attacks as outlined on Webopedia are:
• Traffic attacks: Traffic flooding attacks send a huge volume of TCP, UDP and ICPM packets to the target. Legitimate requests get lost and these attacks may be accompanied by malware exploitation.
• Bandwidth attacks: This DDoS attack overloads the target with massive amounts of junk data. This results in a loss of network bandwidth and equipment resources and can lead to a complete denial of service.
• Application attacks: Application-layer data messages can deplete resources in the application layer, leaving the target’s system services unavailable.
With these types of attacks they may be carried out and then businesses are contacted and told that they must pay in order to restore their website and online services that have been affected.
Bomb Threats, Assassins & Hitmen
These are very similar in the way that they are carried out and can be quite unnerving for an unsuspecting person who is being victimized by one of these scams. Fear is exactly what these scams are relying on.
Picture it…You brew yourself a morning coffee and then sit down at your laptop to browse through your emails that have come in the hours while you were sleeping. You open an email from an unknown sender that reads something like this example of a Hitman email from Canadian Anti-Fraud Center (CAFC) website:
I am very sorry for you, is a pity that this is how your life is going to end if you don’t comply. As you can see there is no need of introducing myself to you because I don’t have any business with you, my duty as I am mailing you now is just to KILL you and I have to do it as I have already been paid for that.
Someone you call a friend wants you Dead by all means, and the person have spent a lot of money on this, the person also came to us and told me that he wanted you dead and he provided us with your name ,picture and other necessary information’s about you. So I sent my boys to track you down and they have carried out the necessary investigation needed for the operation on you, and they have done that but I told them not to kill you that I will like to contact you and see if your life is Important to you or not since their findings shows that you are innocent.
I called my client back and ask him of your email address which I didn’t tell him what I wanted to do with it and he gave it to me and I am using it to contact you now. As I am writing to you now my men are monitoring you and they are telling me everything about you.
Now do you want to LIVE OR DIE? As someone has paid us to kill you. Get back to me now if you are ready to pay some fees to spare your life, $7,000 is all you need to spend You will first of all pay $3,000 then I will send a tape to you which I recorded every discussion i had with the person who wanted you dead and as soon as you get the tape, you will pay the remaining $4,000. If you are not ready for my help, then I will carry on with my job straight-up.
WARNING: DO NOT THINK OF CONTACTING THE POLICE OR EVEN TELLING ANYONE BECAUSE I WILL KNOW.REMEMBER, SOMEONE WHO KNOWS YOU VERY WELL WANT YOU DEAD! I WILL EXTEND IT TO YOUR FAMILY, INCASE I NOTICE SOMETHING FUNNY.
DO NOT COME OUT ONCE IT IS 7:PM UNTIL I MAKE OUT TIME TO SEE YOU AND GIVE YOU THE TAPE OF MY DISCUSSION WITH THE PERSON WHO WANT YOU DEAD THEN YOU CAN USE IT TO TAKE ANY LEGAL ACTION. GOOD LUCK AS I AWAIT YOUR REPLY EMAIL
The CAFC recommends that you not reply to the email, you should delete the email if you receive one like this. Those behind this type of scam are looking to get money and personal information in order to add identity theft to their list of crimes.
Bomb threat extortion scams are very similar in their execution, in that the message will be received by email and the contactor will ask for money in order for you to avoid a bomb being detonated. An example email from the CAFC website follows:
This is the only way I could reach you people, no matter who you are, make sure this gets to your manager. If not you have yourself to blame, my group was paid to plant an un-activated bomb in your building (hotel lodge) till a certain date it will be activated which is best known to our employer. I know what am about to do is a betrayal to my group, I can disconnect the bomb and take it away, but this will between us alone, I need the sum of $500,000, $250,000 will be paid to an account I will provide for you and the balance will be paid after the disconnection, if you agree with me get back to me, if no, don?t even think of contacting me. Finally do not involve the cops/police on this, because if you do, none of your apology will be accepted to me (remember, I took risk for sending you this information), if we have a deal, you know what to do.
If you receive an unsettling communication like those above and are concerned contact your local police department- it’s always best to play it safe.
Extortion & Exploitation
The last type of extortion that I would like to talk about in this post could involve some you know and trust or someone you thought you knew. When it comes to online friendships and relationships it can be very hard to be 100% certain that the person you are talking too is really the person you believe them to be. This is why it is important that you stay alert and questioning—especially if something is unsettling or just doesn’t seem quite right.
With the numerous methods of screen and video capture for chat conversations or live streaming videos you should always be wary. Once something is written, recorded, or photographed it has longevity and share-ability in this day and age—this is especially true of material that can be embarrassing for the person who is connected to it.
Perhaps the best illustration of this type of extortion is a news story that I noticed a few hours ago regarding two male students in Houston, TX who innocently enough were on a dating sites and then were unknowingly recorded in compromising positions by people whom they trusted. The person with the recording then proceeded to demand money from the students otherwise they would share the recorded material with the student’s friends and family members. To drive home the fact that there was means to do this the person began sending the guy’s photos from their friends and family members social media pages. Read the story here.
The above involved college student’s being victimized but they are not the only ones who are falling victim to extortion like this. According to a 2015 article by CBC News’ Caroline Barghout this type of extortion, dubbed “sextortion” involving Canadian teens has seen a 40% increase. This can have some very dire consequences, especially if the teen is scared, ashamed, and feels like they are alone in the situation because they don’t see talking to their parents or another authority figure as a viable option.
You’ve probably heard it a thousand times but I am going to say it again—talk to your family members and children about staying safe online and keep the lines of communication open so that if something comes up the pathway for discussion has been made.
Next week we will continue looking at online fraud and scams and don’t miss the final post in the series that will outline how to stay safe online, secure your personal information and where to find help should you need it.