Sextortion email scams are on the rise again, according to a new report.
Symantec blocked just under 289 million extortion emails from Jan. 1 to May 29, 2019, according to a report from the software company published Tuesday.
The biggest spike in the emails — more than 85 million — happened during a 17-day period in February, the company said.
However, during that period there were other kinds of email scams as well, including bomb threat scams.
“Most of these emails also contain a password or partial phone number previously (or perhaps still) associated with the email address the email is sent to,” Symantec said in its report. “This is included to make it appear the attacker has access to private information about the recipient—when in fact they almost certainly obtained it from one of the many large password dumps of recent years.”
The company explained that most of the sextortion emails claim to have a recording of the potential victim visiting a porn website, or claim to be with law enforcement and are accusing the potential victim of having child pornography on his or her computer.
“The big exception to this is the bomb scare emails, where the sender claims to have planted a bomb in your building that will be triggered if the requested amount of money is not paid,” Symantec said.
The software company said the scams are making an estimate of over $1.2 million a year.
The emails also appear to be part of a mass-emailing project and not targeted to individuals.
“As these email extortion scams are typical cyber crime activity, it is not clear exactly who is behind these attacks, but Symantec believes that a minimum of two cyber crime groups are engaged in this kind of activity, though there are potentially also many others,” the company said.
The company recommends that if someone does receive one of these extortion emails, the person should not respond, click any links included in the email, or send any money to the email sender.
“Mark the email as spam and, if you feel it is necessary, alert authorities about the email,” the company recommended.