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How to respond to email sextortion

How to respond to email sextortion

Navigating the digital sphere, we often come across numerous threats, among which online sextortion holds a significant place. Cybercriminals employ email sextortion to exploit victims into parting with their money, frequently under the pretense of possessing compromising or embarrassing content. This article will help you understand the nature of sextortion, its prevalence, and the appropriate response if you become a target.

Are Sextortion Emails Common?

Sextortion emails are a type of cyber scam that is unfortunately becoming increasingly common. These emails typically involve the threat of exposing explicit or embarrassing content to the victim’s friends, family, or colleagues if a sum of money is not paid. According to Infosecurity Magazine, there was a whopping 178% increase in sextortion emails between the first half of 2022 and the same period in 2023. These scams are becoming more sophisticated, with scammers using complex social engineering tactics to trick their victims into paying up. Additionally, personal information obtained from data breaches is often used to make the scam seem more convincing. It is essential to be cautious when receiving unsolicited emails and to report any suspicious activity to the relevant authorities.

What to Do if You Receive a Sextortion Email

If you ever receive an email threatening to expose compromising information about you unless you pay a certain amount of money, it’s important not to panic. Remember, these emails are designed to scare you and make you act impulsively. To handle the situation effectively, follow these steps:

·         Do not respond or pay:
Engaging with the sender or making any payments could lead to more targeted attacks in the future. Moreover, there is no guarantee paying will ensure your safety.

·         Report the email:
Forward the email to your local law enforcement agency and file a complaint with the relevant cybercrime unit. You should also report it to your email provider.

·         Change your passwords:
It’s always a good idea to change them regularly. Use a unique, complex password for each of your accounts.

·         Enable two-factor authentication:
Two-factor authentication (2FA) adds an extra layer of security to your online accounts. It’s a great way to protect your data from unauthorized access.

·         Use antivirus software:
Install and regularly update antivirus software on your devices to protect against malware and other cyber threats. This will help you detect and prevent any malicious activity on your devices, adding an extra layer of protection to your online security.

·         Be cautious of suspicious links:
Do not open links or download attachments from unknown senders, as they may contain harmful content. Always verify the sender’s authenticity before clicking links or downloading files.

·         Backup your data:
Regularly backup your important data to an external hard drive or cloud storage service. This will help you recover your data in case of a cyber-attack or device failure. Ensure your backup data is encrypted and password-protected for added security.

What Happens if You Respond to It?

Responding to a sextortion email can validate your email address to the scammer, potentially leading to more targeted and persistent attacks. Moreover, if you pay the ransom, you might be seen as an easy target, which could encourage the scammer to extort more from you.


To protect yourself from falling victim to online sextortion, it’s vital to maintain good cybersecurity habits. These include not sharing personal or sensitive information online, being cautious of unsolicited emails, and regularly updating passwords. Also, keep your device’s software up-to-date, use reliable security software, and regularly back up your data.

Digital Forensics Services

If you suspect your information may have been compromised, digital forensics services can be invaluable. They can help identify any breaches, recover lost data, and provide advice on protecting your systems in the future.


While email sextortion can be frightening, understanding how these scams work and knowing how to respond can significantly reduce their impact. By maintaining strong cybersecurity practices and utilizing resources like a sextortion helpline or digital forensics services, you can protect yourself from becoming a victim. Remember, if you receive a sextortion email, don’t panic, don’t engage, report it, and ensure your online accounts are secure.


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