An unwelcome notification has Weyburn police on high alert.
Four people have come forward in six weeks, all on the wrong end of a threatening email.
“They’ve hacked into your computer, they found you’ve got sexually explicit material involving yourself on there, and if you don’t pay the money within a period of time, they’ll post it on social media and send it to your contact list,” Weyburn Police Service Deputy Chief Rod Stafford described.
The three women and one man who reported the messages did not actually have explicit content of themselves on their computer, but police fear someone who does could be targeted.
“They’ll send out 100,000 emails, and if they get one per cent that respond out of fear, that’s a pretty good day’s work,” Stafford added.
He says the emails all demand thousands of dollars, but it’s difficult to say if it’s one person behind the scheme, or if anyone has fallen for it.
Some experts say it’s a plot that could particularly affect women.
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“The problem with that is women are more vulnerable because we feel like we will be judged harsher, or that there is some sort of blame for us,” University of Regina Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Coordinator Lynn Thera said. “They fear somebody will say something, or they fear there will be repercussions, or gossip about them. That makes them more vulnerable to that fact – even if you know you haven’t done anything.”
Police say it’s difficult to track these scammers because they often hide behind foreign servers and spoofed addresses.
“You can backtrace a particular email address sometimes through five, six, seven, ten countries,” Stafford explained. “Without the training to do that, and the in-house technology to do that, and the time to do that, it becomes extremely difficult.”
Stafford believes this is the first time this kind of scheme has hit the province, and while Regina and Saskatoon police haven’t had any similar complaints, he encourages anyone receiving these emails to report it in hopes of finding out how widespread it is.
“We believe, from all types of cyber scams, that they are grossly under-reported in the country… There’s probably many, many more out there.”