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District Attorney warns of blackmail scam in Santa Barbara County

The Santa Barbara County District Attorney says her office has received numerous reports of an online extortion scam that can target a variety of individuals.

Joyce Dudley says the scam usually begins with a scammer sending an anonymous email or letter claiming to have uncovered a highly embarrassing secret. In one version, the scammer has discovered your passwords and alleges that you used this password to log onto pornographic websites. Dudley says the scammer then claims that they used your password to access information stored in your computer including your emails and contact lists.

The scammer will then tell you they made a “split view videotape”; one screen showing the porno site that you allegedly accessed and the other showing your computer web camera recording your responses while you watch the site. In another version of this scam, the fraudster will claim that they have uncovered evidence that you have engaged in acts of adultery, according to Dudley.

Dudley says the scammer then threatens to reveal the information to the recipient’s spouse or significant other, family, friends and employer and demands payment in exchange for secrecy. To avoid detection, the scammer often insists on being paid in bitcoin.

Dudley confirms that these are scams and that fraudsters do not have any incriminating or embarrassing information. She recommends that if you get one of these emails, delete the message and do not respond. If the scammer does have one of your passwords, immediately change the passwords to your accounts, contact your financial institutions and law enforcement, and then file a report with the FBI at

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