Having a public identity through my job, I have become accustomed to receiving scam emails and phone calls like the one from the Nigerian prince who will reward me if I help him get to the U.S.

Or the grandson (I don’t have) who needs bail money to get out of jail.

And then there is the police official who needs me to pay on my warrants or he will put me in jail.

It all comes with the territory.

Still, the most recent spam email I received took a new tact — extortion.

I found the message while going through my quarantine file looking for another email I was expecting. It began with the friendly “Hi Ahowell” and then went into an explanation on how the sender was an actual Russian hacker, as if that is now a title to be proud of, and had hacked into my email account.

“I implanted a small application into your device which sends me your current IP address and allows me to connect to your device just like remote desktop,” the sender said. Then he gave a detailed explanation on how he did it, which from the little tech knowledge I have was enough that I could see through his scam.

Then the scammer got to his pitch, or threat.

“A little while later, when I was searching your web browsing history I was shocked by what I saw!! The sites for adults you are visiting... you know what I mean... I just want to say — your fantasies are shifted far away from the normal course!”

He then goes on to explain that he had been spying on me through my computer device camera and filming me watching porn and if I didn’t deposit $2,000 in bitcoin to a certain account, he would share my perversions with everyone on my email list.

Apparently I am not the only one to receive such a threat.

The Better Business Bureau is warning about this “sextortion” blackmail scam.

“Hackers are not only getting bolder but smarter,” Melanie Duquesnel, president and CEO of the Michigan Better Business Bureau, told the Detroit Free Press.

“Sadly this type of threat can catch people off guard when someone is threatening embarrassment that could lead to losing one’s job or worse, negatively impacting a relationship or reputation.”

The BBB is highlighting these red flags in the porn scam:

  • The scammer does not provide any details about what adult site you reportedly visited.
  • The scammer doesn’t back up the threat by sending you evidence — say a compromising screen shot — to prove that they have anything embarrassing to share with your family and friends.
  • The ransom is a real red flag. Never pay money on gift cards, bitcoin or a wire transfer after receiving a threatening email or phone call.
  • Consumers, including those in the military, are also warned not to text explicit photos of themselves to anyone. Scammers will try to use those photos as collateral to later get the consumer to pay a ransom.

The scammers are playing off the possible guilt a recipient might have about viewing porn online. As for me, I felt guilty opening the email, because right after I did so, the company’s email system crashed.


I then confessed to our IT director that I may have crashed the system. It turns out it was just a coincidence and I wasted my confession.

As for the scammer, don’t blame him if you receive the sextortion email. He’s just doing his job.

“Do not be angry at me. This is just my job, and you are not the only person I caught. Be angry at your fantasies...”


If you aren’t a Russian hacker, you can reach Andy Howell at ahowell@pinalcentral.

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