Avoid getting scammed by emails claiming that your device was hacked
Written by Tomas Meskauskas on (updated)
What is "I am sorry to inform you but your device was hacked" email scam?
"I am sorry to inform you but your device was hacked" refers to a sextortion spam campaign. These scam emails claim that the recipient's device was infected and used to make a sexually explicit video of them. The letters demand a ransom to be paid - else the compromising recording will be publicized. It must be stressed that these emails are scams, and all of their information is false.
"I am sorry to inform you but your device was hacked" email in detail
The "I am sorry to inform you but your device was hacked" scam emails contain lengthy text telling the story of a fake system infection and how the infiltrated malware was used to obtain compromising content. The letters claim that the sender has been monitoring the recipient for several months.
Allegedly, during this time, recordings were made featuring the recipient while they were visiting adult-themed websites. The emails demand that 1650 USD worth of Bitcoins would be transferred to the provided cryptocurrency wallet - or the nonexistent video will be sent to the recipient's contacts and posted online.
It must be emphasized that these emails are fake and pose no threat to the recipient. In other words, they must be ignored, as the recipient's devices were not infected, nor are any videos of them in the sender's possession.
|Name||I am sorry to inform you but your device was hacked Email Scam|
|Threat Type||Phishing, Scam, Social Engineering, Fraud|
|Fake Claim||Scam emails claim that a compromising video featuring the recipient will be publicized unless a ransom is paid.|
|Ransom Amount||1650 USD in Bitcoin cryptocurrency|
|Cyber Criminal Cryptowallet Addresses (Bitcoin)||1Bg5s2oasuGyiMPkDu3XGQde85AmHDcR2E, 18c2q9zPuYyaep9Gi1eACAnDuKotuf22Go, 1DRNo5xnNCHtBfyFapVL8NT1cpsyju7NJ4, 13ToomuZobLywvaJgkeshSELKPRyBAnXHh, 1KB6Z5J6Z6etx2J3AhWrEcUGyVUcBw9Rpe, bc1q272edu0v6el2kmxcxnl3k6yq9zqfhdggl3dumr, 15DMMwLTqV4RmYpJZDoNUZvzNikX1m6j4R, 1HB6CPkMo43UmZCNR7mmReXqpDNtfEg85L, 1JwLUkacG322ARR8cSYGLQxnXh3EXZvXDF, 18YFLJHGufQQukMFRkJJJiz51mp21qN96p|
|Symptoms||Unauthorized online purchases, changed online account passwords, identity theft, illegal access of the computer.|
|Distribution methods||Deceptive emails, rogue online pop-up ads, search engine poisoning techniques, misspelled domains.|
|Damage||Loss of sensitive private information, monetary loss, identity theft.|
|Malware Removal (Windows)||
To eliminate possible malware infections, scan your computer with legitimate antivirus software. Our security researchers recommend using Combo Cleaner.
Spam campaigns in general
"Unfortunately, there are some bad news for you", "This is the last reminder", "Have you heard about Pegasus?", and "I am a professional programmer who specializes in hacking" are a few examples of sextortion spam campaigns.
Emails sent through these campaigns use a variety of scam models and false claims to gain and subsequently abuse recipients' trust. In addition to phishing and various schemes, spam mail is also used to proliferate malware (e.g., ransomware, trojans, cryptocurrency miners, etc.).
How do spam campaigns infect computers?
For example, Microsoft Office documents cause infections by executing malicious macro commands. This occurs when a document is opened in Microsoft Office versions released before 2010.
Automatic macro execution is prevented by the "Protected View" mode in newer versions, so instead, users can manually enable macro commands (i.e., editing/content). Note that virulent documents often contain deceptive messages intended to trick users into enabling macros.
How to avoid installation of malware?
Suspicious and irrelevant emails should not be opened, especially any attachments or links present in them - as they are potential origins of system infections. It is recommended to use Microsoft Office versions released after 2010.
Aside from spam mail, malware is also spread through untrustworthy download channels (e.g., unofficial and freeware sites, Peer-to-Peer sharing networks, etc.), software "cracking" tools, and fake updates. Hence, it is advised to only download from official/verified sources and activate/update programs with tools provided by genuine developers.
It is crucial to have a dependable anti-virus installed and kept updated. This software has to be used to run regular system scans and to remove threats. If you've already opened malicious attachments, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate infiltrated malware.
Text presented in the "I am sorry to inform you but your device was hacked" scam email letter:
Subject: Do You Do Any of These Embarrassing Things?
I am sorry to inform you but your device was hacked.
That's what happened. I have used a Zero Click vulnerability with a special code to hack your device through a website.
A complicated software that requires precise skills that I posess.
This exploit works in a chain with a specially crafted unique code and such type of an attack goes undetected.
You only had to visit a website to be infected, and unfortunately for you it's that simple for me.
You were not targeted, but just became one of the many unlucky people who got hacked through that webpage.
All of this happened in August. So I’ve had enough time to collect the information.
I think you already know what is going to happen next.
For a couple of month my software was quietly collecting information about your habits, websites you visit, websearches, texts you send.
There is more to it, but I have listed just a few reasons for you to understand how serious this is.
To be clear, my software controlled your camera and microphone as well.
It was just about right timing to get you privacy violated. I have made a few pornhub worthy videos with you as a lead actor.
I’ve been waiting enough and have decided that it’s time to put an end to this.
Here is my offer. Let’s name this a “consulting fee” I need to get, so I can delete the media content I have been collecting.
Your privacy stays untouched, if I get the payment.
Otherwise, I will leak the most damaging content to your contacts and post it to a public website for perverts to view.
You and I understand how damaging this will be to you, it's not that much money to keep your privacy.
I don’t care about you personally, that's why you can be sure that all files I have and software on your device will be deleted immediately after I receive the transfer.
I only care about getting paid.
My modest consulting fee is 1650 US Dollars to be transferred in Bitcoin. Exchange rate at the time of the transfer.
You need to send that amount to this wallet: 1Bg5s2oasuGyiMPkDu3XGQde85AmHDcR2E, 18c2q9zPuYyaep9Gi1eACAnDuKotuf22Go, 1DRNo5xnNCHtBfyFapVL8NT1cpsyju7NJ4
The fee is non negotiable, to be transferred within 2 business days.
Obviously do not try to ask for help from the law enforcement unless you want your privacy to be violated.
I will monitor your every move until I get paid. If you keep your end of the agreement, you wont hear from me ever again.
Take care and have a good day.
Appearance of the "I am sorry to inform you but your device was hacked" scam email (GIF):
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- What is I Am Sorry To Inform You But Your Device Was Hacked spam?
- Types of malicious emails.
- How to spot a malicious email?
- What to do if you fell for an email scam?
Types of malicious emails:
Most commonly, cybercriminals use deceptive emails to trick Internet users into giving away their sensitive private information, for example, login information for various online services, email accounts, or online banking information.
Such attacks are called phishing. In a phishing attack, cybercriminals usually send an email message with some popular service logo (for example, Microsoft, DHL, Amazon, Netflix), create urgency (wrong shipping address, expired password, etc.), and place a link which they hope their potential victims will click on.
After clicking the link presented in such email message, victims are redirected to a fake website that looks identical or extremely similar to the original one. Victims are then asked to enter their password, credit card details, or some other information that gets stolen by cybercriminals.
Emails with Malicious Attachments
Another popular attack vector is email spam with malicious attachments that infect users' computers with malware. Malicious attachments usually carry trojans that are capable of stealing passwords, banking information, and other sensitive information.
In such attacks, cybercriminals' main goal is to trick their potential victims into opening an infected email attachment. To achieve this goal, email messages usually talk about recently received invoices, faxes, or voice messages.
If a potential victim falls for the lure and opens the attachment, their computers get infected, and cybercriminals can collect a lot of sensitive information.
While it's a more complicated method to steal personal information (spam filters and antivirus programs usually detect such attempts), if successful, cybercriminals can get a much wider array of data and can collect information for a long period of time.
This is a type of phishing. In this case, users receive an email claiming that a cybercriminal could access the webcam of the potential victim and has a video recording of one's masturbation.
To get rid of the video, victims are asked to pay a ransom (usually using Bitcoin or another cryptocurrency). Nevertheless, all of these claims are false - users who receive such emails should ignore and delete them.
How to spot a malicious email?
While cyber criminals try to make their lure emails look trustworthy, here are some things that you should look for when trying to spot a phishing email:
- Check the sender's ("from") email address: Hover your mouse over the "from" address and check if it's legitimate. For example, if you received an email from Microsoft, be sure to check if the email address is @microsoft.com and not something suspicious like @m1crosoft.com, @microsfot.com, @account-security-noreply.com, etc.
- Check for generic greetings: If the greeting in the email is "Dear user", "Dear @youremail.com", "Dear valued customer", this should raise suspiciousness. Most commonly, companies call you by your name. Lack of this information could signal a phishing attempt.
- Check the links in the email: Hover your mouse over the link presented in the email, if the link that appears seems suspicious, don't click it. For example, if you received an email from Microsoft and the link in the email shows that it will go to firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0... you shouldn't trust it. It's best not to click any links in the emails but to visit the company website that sent you the email in the first place.
- Don't blindly trust email attachments: Most commonly, legitimate companies will ask you to log in to their website and to view any documents there; if you received an email with an attachment, it's a good idea to scan it with an antivirus application. Infected email attachments are a common attack vector used by cybercriminals.
To minimise the risk of opening phishing and malicious emails we recommend using Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows.
Example of a spam email:
What to do if you fell for an email scam?
- If you clicked on a link in a phishing email and entered your password - be sure to change your password as soon as possible. Usually, cybercriminals collect stolen credentials and then sell them to other groups that use them for malicious purposes. If you change your password in a timely manner, there's a chance that criminals won't have enough time to do any damage.
- If you entered your credit card information - contact your bank as soon as possible and explain the situation. There's a good chance that you will need to cancel your compromised credit card and get a new one.
- If you see any signs of identity theft - you should immediately contact the Federal Trade Commission. This institution will collect information about your situation and create a personal recovery plan.
- If you opened a malicious attachment - your computer is probably infected, you should scan it with a reputable antivirus application. For this purpose, we recommend using Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows.
- Help other Internet users - report phishing emails to Anti-Phishing Working Group, FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, National Fraud Information Center and U.S. Department of Justice.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Why did I receive this email?
Spam emails are not personal; they are sent by the thousand with the hope of tricking at least some of the recipients.
Was my computer actually hacked and does the sender have any information?
No, all of the claims made by the "I am sorry to inform you but your device was hacked" scam email - are false. Therefore, neither is your device infected nor do the scammers have any videos featuring you.
How did cyber criminals get my email password?
If you've received spam emails from your own email account - this could have occurred due to a data breach. Otherwise, you might have fallen victim to a phishing scam at some point. Schemes of this type aim to trick users into providing their account credentials or other sensitive information into phishing websites or files, which wear various disguises to lure victims into trusting them.
I have sent cryptocurrency to the address presented in this email, can I get my money back?
Cryptocurrency transactions are practically untraceable; hence, you will not be able to reverse them.
I have provided my personal information when tricked by a spam email, what should I do?
If you've disclosed account credentials - immediately change the passwords of all potentially compromised accounts and contact their official support. If the information was of a different personal nature (e.g., ID card details, credit card numbers, etc.) - you should contact the relevant authorities without delay.
I have read a spam email but didn't open the attachment, is my computer infected?
No, opening a spam email will not trigger a system infection. However, the links and attachments found in these emails - can be malicious and initiate malware download/installation upon opening.
I have downloaded and opened a file attached to a spam email, is my computer infected?
Whether your system is infected depends on the file's format. If it was an executable - then, most likely, yes. However, you may have avoided an infection if the attachment was a document (e.g., .pdf, .doc, etc.) - since such files may require additional actions to jumpstart malware download/installation.
Will Combo Cleaner remove malware infections present in email attachments?
Yes, Combo Cleaner can detect and eliminate almost all known malware infections. Running a full system infection is paramount, as sophisticated malicious programs typically hide deep within the system.
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