Criminals turning to 'sextortion' in new generation of cyber scams

CHARLOTTE, NC – Sextortion scammers contact people to tell them they were caught watching porn. The victims of the scam are told to pay them money or pay the consequences.

The scammers hope some of the people they target actually searched pornographic videos.

The criminals contact the victims through email and can be aggressive.

A scammer targeted Mark Thomas.

"Nothing like this has ever happened to me," he said. 

"It was threatening," his wife Judith said.

A con artist also emailed John Lowery. 

"Somebody's just very cruel. I can just tell you that," he said. "Somebody's just very, very cruel and they ought to be stopped." 

The email Lowery received said, "It is better to obey" and "Good morning, my prey."

The email Thomas received said, "You went to this website to experience fun. You know what I mean."

The scammers said they caught Thomas and Lowery watching porn online, used the cameras on both men's computers to record them and planned to send the video to everyone in their contacts list. Both told WSB-TV's sister station in Charlotte WSOC-TV they didn't watch porn online. 

"I wouldn't even know how," Thomas said.

"I'm overcoming lung cancer and that's really the last thing I think I would want to do right now," Lowery said.

The scam's been around for a while but there's a new twist. 

"Bitcoin is now the preferred payment for scammers," Better Business Bureau President Tom Bartholomy said. "It's not traceable. It's not retrievable. Once you transfer bitcoin to somebody, it's gone."

"I wouldn't know how to buy it if you put a gun to my head," Lowery said. 

That's why the scammers email some people with instructions.

"(The scammer) said, 'If you don't know about bitcoin, here's the Google link. You can look it up,'" Judith Thomas said

The Thomases and Lowerys did not fall for the scam.

The BBB said there's one adult website that gets 75 million hits each day. So, obviously, there are plenty of people out there who do look at those sites. But even if you're one of them, this is still a scam.

The scammers don't know what you did or didn't do online.

What to do:

  • Don't click on anything.
  • Don't share your personal information. 
  • Don't pay them. 
  • Tell law enforcement.

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