It is good that you have reached out about this and remember that you are not alone when dealing with scammers.
Blackmail scams are an attempt to force payment from someone by threatening to share information that they do not wish certain people, groups, or the public to know. Blackmailers usually contact their targets and show evidence (which may not even be real) of them doing something that they would not wish others to know.
What should you do?
You should remain calm and remember not to pay the blackmailer under any circumstances. Paying the scammer the sums requested rarely solves the problem, and may lead to further instances of extortion; either using the same information to request even more money be paid, or the sale of this information to other scammers who can make similar attempts.
Contact the police
It is best not to reply to them at all, instead you should contact the police on 101 and report this. By gathering evidence, you can help them to resolve the situation. This includes the username, ID, or email address of the person that blackmailed you if you have this information.
The police will not pass judgement on you and will keep any information you supply them with as confidential.
Blackmail through social media
If you were blackmailed over Facebook or another social media platform, suspend, but do not delete your account. This will give the authorities the best chance of tracking down the person who is blackmailing you.
As the blackmail was carried out online, you should also inform your internet provider, many of whom have protections in place for their customers for situations just like this.
It would also be a good idea to change any relevant passwords immediately and update any antivirus software that you have installed on your devices. Remember when changing passwords, to ensure that this is not something generic that could be guessed easily.
As previously stated, the scammer may not actually have had access to your device(s), but it is worth taking precautions in case malware has been installed on the device. The term ‘malware’ is an amalgamation of ‘malicious’ and ‘software’ and is a particularly vicious type of cyber-attack that can take various forms.
The ultimate motive of the scammer using malware is to obtain control of your devices.
Avoid Making Payments & Contact Relevant Parties
The most important thing to note when threatened with cyber blackmail is to ensure that no payment is made and immediately inform the police and your internet service provider. These acts are criminal and need to be reported as such.
If you believe you have been the target of a scam, you should contact your bank / service provider in the first instance if account details have been shared, or money has been transferred.
You can also report suspected scams and suspicious activity using the Quick Reporting Tool at scamwatch.scot, or by calling consumeradvice.scot on 0808 164 6000 (9am-5pm, Monday – Friday). By reporting scams, you can help organisations such as consumeradvice.scot to do their work in protecting Scottish consumers.