How to avoid falling for fake emails like "You Have Been Under Surveillance"

Also Known As: You Have Been Under Surveillance sextortion scam
Damage level: Medium

What kind of scam is "You Have Been Under Surveillance"?

Upon thorough examination, we have determined that this email embodies the characteristics of a classic sextortion scam. These scams typically involve cybercriminals threatening to expose sensitive or compromising information about the recipient unless a ransom is paid. Recipients should disregard such fraudulent attempts and refrain from responding or engaging with scammers.

You Have Been Under Surveillance sextortion scam

More about the "You Have Been Under Surveillance" sextortion scam

The scammers behind this email falsely claim to have hacked into the recipient's system and obtained compromising material, threatening to expose it unless a ransom is paid. The email includes a claim of hacking, asserting that the recipient's system has been compromised and they have been under surveillance for an extended period.

Additionally, the scammers claim that the recipient's device was infected by visiting an adult website and assert to have recorded videos of them engaging in explicit activities. Furthermore, they claim to have copied all data from their devices to their servers.

The scammers threaten to publicly release the material unless a ransom of $1300 in Bitcoin is paid within a specified timeframe. The email employs various tactics to intimidate the recipient, including threats of legal consequences and promises of anonymity. The scammers claim that the virus used is undetectable and that attempts to change passwords would be futile.

Finally, the scammers warn against replying to or reporting the email, as the sender's address is automatically created and untraceable. They also threaten to publish the recipient's data if they attempt to contact law enforcement or security services.

Overall, this email is a coercive attempt to extort money from the recipient by leveraging fear and intimidation tactics. Recipients need to recognize such scams and refrain from responding or engaging with the scammers. Instead, they should report the email to the appropriate authorities or email service provider to prevent further exploitation.

Threat Summary:
Name You Have Been Under Surveillance Email Scam
Threat Type Phishing, Scam, Social Engineering, Fraud
Fake Claim Scammers have hacked into the recipient's system and obtained compromising material
Cyber Criminal Cryptowallet Address 116A33YsSrr8xCccVYkHnzmAdpK2Q3qVFk
Ransom Amount $1300
Symptoms Grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, inconsistent formatting, and the use of threatening language or urgent demands
Distribution methods Deceptive emails
Damage Loss of sensitive private information, monetary loss, identity theft.
Malware Removal (Windows)

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Similar scam emails in general

Such emails typically share common elements designed to instill fear and coerce recipients into compliance. They often falsely claim to have obtained compromising material through hacking, threaten to expose this material unless a ransom is paid, and assert control over the recipient's data.

Overall, these emails aim to exploit recipients' fears and vulnerabilities for financial gain. Examples of similar scams are "I Have Been Watching You Email Scam", "Start The Conversation With Bad News Email Scam", and "I Would Like To Avoid Any Accusations Against You Email Scam". It is important to mention that cybercriminals also use email to deliver malware.

How do spam campaigns infect computers?

Cybercriminals often deliver malware via email through deceptive tactics such as phishing. They send emails masquerading as legitimate messages from trusted sources, enticing recipients to click on malicious links or download infected attachments.

The attached files may contain hidden malware payloads designed to exploit vulnerabilities in the recipient's system upon execution, leading to unauthorized access, data theft, or other malicious activities. Common types of malicious attachments include executable files (such as .exe), compressed files (such as .zip or .rar), Microsoft Office documents (such as .doc or .docx), and PDF files.

Cybercriminals also distribute malware via email through malicious links embedded within the message. These links often appear legitimate, directing recipients to seemingly trustworthy websites, triggering drive-by downloads, or instructing users to download malicious files.

How to avoid installation of malware?

Exercise caution when handling email attachments or opening links included in emails if they come unexpectedly or seem irrelevant, particularly from unfamiliar or suspicious addresses. Keep your operating system, installed programs, and security tools up to date to mitigate potential vulnerabilities.

When downloading applications and files, rely on reputable sources like official websites and trusted app stores. Approach pop-ups, advertisements, or buttons on dubious websites with skepticism, and refrain from using pirated software or cracking tools. Additionally, regularly scan your computer to identify and eliminate any existing threats that may compromise your system's security.

If you have already opened malicious attachments, we recommend running a scan with Combo Cleaner Antivirus for Windows to automatically eliminate infiltrated malware.

Appearance of the "You Have Been Under Surveillance" scam email (GIF):

You Have Been Under Surveillance scam appearance

Text presented in the "You Have Been Under Surveillance" sextortion scam:

Subject: Re:

Your system has been hacked.

You have been under surveillance for an extended period of time.
The virus was infected by an adult website you visited.
I've recorded several videos of you jerking off to highly controversial adult videos.

All data from your devices has been copied to my servers.

I have access to all your messengers, social media, email, chat history and contact list.
I also have access to all of your personal data, which I've already copied to my servers.

I can also put all your data in the public domain.

Illegal material in your country has been found on your device. You could get in trouble with the law.

And also I have all the records of your calls, which I will also put in public access to the Internet if you do not go to my conditions.

I know all your secrets.

I could ruin your life forever.

My virus is constantly updating its signature (it is driver based) so it remains invisible to your system.
I think you can see why I went undetected until this letter.

There's no point in changing passwords, all the data's already copied to my servers.

I guess you really don't want that to happen.

Let's solve it this way: you transfer me 1300 US dollars (in bitcoin equivalent at the exchange rate at the time of transfer), and I will immediately remove all this dirt from my servers.
After this, we will forget about each other. I always keep my word.

My bitcoin wallet for payment: 116A33YsSrr8xCccVYkHnzmAdpK2Q3qVFk
If you don't know how to transfer money and what Bitcoin is. Use Google.

I give you 50 hours (a little over 2 days) to complete the payment.
I get an automatic notification when I read this email. Similarly, the timer will automatically start after you read the current email.

If payment is not confirmed after the given time, all data will be published on the public internet, sent to law enforcement agencies and sent to all your contacts.

Don't waste your time sending me a reply because it won't work (the sender address is automatically created).
Furthermore, do not try to complain anywhere because this text and my bitcoin address cannot be traced anyway.

Do not try to complain anywhere, as the wallet is untraceable, the mail from where the letter came from is also untraceable and created automatically, so there is no point in writing to me.
Do not attempt to contact the police or other security services, otherwise your data will be published.

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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 a sextortion email?

You may have received a sextortion email because scammers obtained your email address through data breaches, online forums, or publicly available directories. Scammers often send these emails in bulk to a large number of recipients in the hopes that some individuals will fall for the scam and pay the ransom.

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

If you have shared personal information with scammers, like credit card details or login credentials, take immediate action. Contact (inform) your bank, change passwords for all compromised accounts, monitor accounts for unauthorized activity, avoid further communication with the scammers, and report the incident to authorities.

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

The likelihood of your computer becoming infected varies based on the file type you interact with. Executable files (.exe) or script files (.js, .vbs) infected with malware pose a high risk when triggered, while document or multimedia files generally present a lower risk of infection.

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

No, your computer was likely not hacked, and the sender does not possess any compromising information.

How did cyber criminals get my email password?

Cybercriminals could have obtained this info through a data breach, where login credentials stolen from a website you have registered to were compromised. Additionally, they may have acquired your password from a phishing website or similar fraudulent page where it was entered.

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

These transactions are essentially untraceable, making retrieval impossible.

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

Merely opening an email poses no threat. Malware infiltration via email cannot occur without opening malicious attached files or included links.

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

Combo Cleaner is designed to detect and eradicate malware. It can find nearly all known malware infections. Sophisticated malware often embeds itself deeply within the system. Therefore, conducting a full system scan is imperative.

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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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