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Government agency sends out sextortion alert

A keyboard with a red key that's labelled "sextortion".
A keyboard with a red key that's labelled "sextortion".

The Australian government's cybersecurity agency has warned Australians to avoid falling victim to a "sextortion" campaign currently spreading around the country.

More than 300 reports of the ransom email have been reported this week to the Australian Cyber Security Centre, Office of the eSafety Commissioner and Scamwatch.

The scam email looks like it's coming from the victim's own email address, to give it the impression that the criminals have control of the person's accounts.

The email threatens to release intimate images of the victim unless a ransom is paid.

"The email may also claim to have compromised a computer, router or other electronic device and it can include a password which the recipient has used in the past," stated the ACSC.

The term "sextortion" describes a blackmail attempt that threatens to "reveal intimate images of someone online, often to their friends and family", unless a sum of money is paid.

The scammers most of the time have no sensitive images and are preying on the victims' fears. The ransom is commonly demanded in untraceable cryptocurrency.

The ACSC warned Australians to not hand over any money to anyone threatening them with sextortion.

"In most cases, if you receive an email there is no reason to be concerned. These emails are typically generated in their thousands by online scammers using limited personal details that they are able to collect from the internet."

But if the email includes a password that the recipient recognises, then all accounts that use that credential should be reset.

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