How to spot fraudulent emails like "You Could Be In Trouble With The Law"

Also Known As: You Could Be In Trouble With The Law sextortion scam
Damage level: Medium

What kind of scam is "You Could Be In Trouble With The Law"?

After conducting an investigation, we have determined that the email in question is a sextortion scam, designed to deceive recipients into thinking that they must pay a specified amount of money to the sender to prevent the release of embarrassing material. We strongly advise recipients to disregard this email and any similar ones.

You Could Be In Trouble With The Law sextortion scam

More about the "You Could Be In Trouble With The Law" scam email

The email claims that the recipient's operating system has been hacked, and all personal data has been copied to the scammer's server. The scammer threatens to make embarrassing information about the recipient public, including a video that shows the recipient watching adult content and masturbating, and claims to have access to the recipient's email, messengers, social networks, and contact list.

The scammer demands $1,300 in Bitcoin to be transferred to the provided wallet within two business days in exchange for deleting all information about the recipient from the server. The email is intended to scare the recipient into paying the scammer, but the claims are false, and the scammer does not have access to the recipient's data.

Recipients of such emails should not respond to these emails or pay scammers.

Threat Summary:
Name You Could Be In Trouble With The Law Email Scam
Threat Type Phishing, Scam, Social Engineering, Fraud
Fake Claim The recipient's operating system has been hacked
Ransom size $1300
Cyber Criminal Cryptowallet Address bc1qp8wz2wsrd9w5z6k8za56dd0xqux6xx47aap4wz 
Disguise Letter from a hacker
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)

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Similar scam emails in general

Emails of this type typically claim that the recipient's computer has been hacked and the scammer has access to personal data, including embarrassing or sensitive material. The scammer demands payment in cryptocurrency to prevent the release of the "accessed" material to the public.

These emails often use threatening language to intimidate the recipient into paying, but the claims are typically false, and the scammer does not have access to the recipient's personal data or humiliating material.

Examples of similar scams are "Professional Hacker Managed To Hack Your Operating System Email Scam", "Porn Websites I Attacked With My Virus Xploit", and "I Know That You Cheat On Your Partner". It is important to mention that emails of this kind can be used to lure recipients into infecting their computers.

How do spam campaigns infect computers?

Malicious attachments and links in emails are common ways users can infect computers with malware. Malicious attachments can include file types such as PDFs, Microsoft Office documents, ZIP files, JavaScript files, or other files. These attachments can contain malware, such as ransomware or a virus, which can be activated when the attachment is downloaded or opened.

Links in emails can also be used to infect computers with malware. These links can lead to infected websites, which can download malware onto computers.

How to avoid installation of malware?

Install and regularly update antivirus software. Do not open attachments or click links from unknown or suspicious email addresses. Keep operating systems, software, and plugins up to date. Only download software from trusted sources and avoid downloading from Peer-to-Peer networks, suspicious pages, third-party downloaders, etc.

Also, do not trust pop-ups on shady websites. 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 "You Could Be In Trouble With The Law" email letter:


You could be in trouble with the law.

This is your last chance to prevent unpleasant consequences and preserve your reputation.

Your operating system has been hacked.
All your personal data has been copied to my servers.

I have installed a Trojan virus in the operating systems of all the devices you use to access the Internet.
This software gives me access to all the controllers on your devices.

Thanks to encryption, no system will detect this virus. Every day its signatures are cleared.
I have already copied all your personal data to my own servers.

I have access to your emails, messengers, social networks, contact list.

When I was collecting data from your device, I found a lot of interesting information about you.

You really like to watch adult videos and have orgasms while watching them.
I have some videos that were recorded from your screen.
I have edited a video that clearly shows your face and the way you watch porn and masturbate.
Your family and friends will have no problem recognizing you in this video. This video will be able to completely destroy your reputation.

Also on your device I was able to find data that is not allowed to be stored in your country.
You could be in trouble with the law.

I can send out proof of your illegal activities to all your contacts, make it public to everyone on the internet.

I have a lot of your personal information. It's your browsing history, your messenger and social media correspondence, your phone calls, your personal photos and videos.
I can put all of your data in the public domain.

I'm sure that after that the police might be interested in you. And other security agencies in your country.

All it takes is one click of my mouse to make all the information you have on your device available to the public.
You understand the consequences.

It will be a real disaster.
Your life would be ruined.

I bet you want to prevent that, don't you?
It's very easy to do.

You need to transfer me 1300$ US dollars (USD) (in bitcoin equivalent at the exchange rate at the time of transfer). After that, I will delete all information about you from my servers.

I will not bother you anymore.
My bitcoin wallet for payment: bc1qp8wz2wsrd9w5z6k8za56dd0xqux6xx47aap4wz

Don't know what Bitcoin is and how to use it? Use Google.
You have 2 business days to pay.
After reading this email, the timer starts automatically.
I've already received notification that you opened this email.

No need to respond to me on this message, this email was created automatically and is untraceable.
There is no need to try to contact anyone for help. Bitcoin wallet is untraceable, so you will just waste your time.

The police and other security services won't help you either.
In each of these cases, I will post the entire video without delay.
All of your data is already copied to a cluster of my servers, so changing your passwords on email or social media won't help.

I hope you choose the right solution.

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Quick menu:

Types of malicious emails:

Phishing email icon Phishing 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.

Email-virus icon 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.

Sextortion email icon Sextortion Emails

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:

Example of an email spam

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?

The scammers send a generic message to a large number of recipients with the hope of deceiving at least one person. These spam emails lack any personalization and are sent to a large number of individuals.

I have provided my personal information when tricked by this email, what should I do?

In case you have shared any account credentials, it is advised to change all passwords at the earliest. If any personal information, like credit card details, ID card information, etc., has been shared, it is recommended to contact the relevant authorities immediately.

I have downloaded and opened a malicious file attached to an email, is my computer infected?

If the file is executable, the system is highly likely to be infected. However, if it was a document in formats like .pdf, .doc, or similar, there is a possibility that the system may have avoided infection. In such cases, merely opening the document may not be sufficient for the malware to enter the system.

Was my computer actually hacked and does the sender have any information?

Your computer has not been hacked or infected in reality. Scammers may have obtained old passwords from databases that contain leaked information.

I have sent cryptocurrency to the address presented in such email, can I get my money back?

Unfortunately, getting your cryptocurrency back once you have sent it to a scammer's address is very difficult, if not impossible. Cryptocurrency transactions are irreversible, meaning that they cannot be reversed or refunded once the funds have been sent.

I have read the email but did not open the attachment, is my computer infected?

Merely opening an email is not harmful in any way. It is the act of clicking on links in the email or opening attachments that can result in system infections.

Will Combo Cleaner remove malware infections that were present in email attachment?

Combo Cleaner can identify and remove nearly all known types of malware infections. However, it should be noted that some sophisticated malware may be deeply hidden within the system, so performing a full system scan is crucial to ensure complete removal.

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About the author:

Tomas Meskauskas

Tomas Meskauskas - expert security researcher, professional malware analyst.

I am passionate about computer security and technology. I have an experience of over 10 years working in various companies related to computer technical issue solving and Internet security. I have been working as an author and editor for pcrisk.com since 2010. Follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn to stay informed about the latest online security threats. Contact Tomas Meskauskas.

PCrisk security portal is brought by a company RCS LT. Joined forces of security researchers help educate computer users about the latest online security threats. More information about the company RCS LT.

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Malware activity

Global malware activity level today:

Medium threat activity

Increased attack rate of infections detected within the last 24 hours.

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