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Ireland Hit by Pedophile Sextortion Email Scam

Residents of Ireland are being targeted by an aggressive email sextortion scam that accuses recipients of being pedophiles before threatening to expose them as such unless a ransom is paid. 

The scam was highlighted yesterday by the Irish arm of IT security company ESET, which posted a warning on its website. ESET Ireland registered several complaints related to the illegal extortion scam.

Victims were sent emails with the subject lines "I know you are a pedophile . . ." and "What the **** are you doing, pedophile?" from someone claiming to be an internet security specialist affiliated with the Anonymous group. 

The sender of the email claimed to have installed spyware on the victim's computer that they purported to have used to record the victim watching illegal pornographic videos featuring young teens.

Victims were told that four video files in which they were captured masturbating to illegal porn were in the possession of the hacker, who threatened to send them out to everyone in the victim's address book unless a Bitcoin ransom of 5,000 GBP was paid.

In a bid to blackmail their victims into paying up, the scammers wrote: "I was observing you for quite some time, and what I have collected here is overwhelming. I know about your sexual preferences and your interest in young bodies. I have secured 4 video files clearly showing how you masturbate (captured from your camera) to young teenagers (captured from your internet browser). Glued together is a pretty overwhelming evidence that you are a pedophile."

Predicting that people who receive the sextortion emails may contact the police, the scammers wrote: "Don’t even think about going to police. If you try, I will immediately know it and I will send them your masturbation videos, pedo."

While sextortion scams that weaponize shame are nothing new, American software company Symantec says cyber-attacks of this type are plentiful and on the rise. From January through May of 2019, Symantec blocked almost 289 million of these emails from landing in the inboxes of potential victims. Of these, about 30% were sent during a 17-day period around Valentine's Day. 

ESET Ireland recommends that anyone who has received these emails does not reply and marks them as spam. If the emails contain any identifiable personal info, recipients are advised to report them to the police.

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