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Unwanted ‘extortion’ emails

19 Dec 2018

A new trend in junk email has been arriving in inboxes worldwide, with hoax threats of violence and blackmail

As you are no doubt aware, unsolicited emails often land in peoples’ inboxes. Many of these are simply irritating commercial emails advertising services you don’t want, and some of them are more malicious phishing messages attempting to acquire your IT login, credit card or bank details.

However, the latest way in which cyber criminals are attempting to gain money, is to send out a series of hoax emails threatening serious violence (eg bomb threats or acid attacks) unless the recipient pays a significant ransom in bitcoin. These threatening emails have caused significant disruption to businesses in the US and Canada, but similar emails have been received by people all across the globe, as criminals attempt to capitalise on peoples’ fear and send out speculative messages, assuming that the recipients will send the money because they believe the threats to be legitimate.

Various law enforcement organisations worldwide have declared that these threats are not credible. The emails are similar in content to a series of emails circulating earlier in the year where the sender wrongly claimed that they would publish embarrassing webcam footage of the recipient unless they paid a bitcoin ransom.

If you receive one of these emails, please report it to IT Services using the instructions on the ‘Email phishing’ page:

Further reading from external sources (The University of Manchester is not responsible for the content of external websites):