In our digital age, little is scarier than the idea that your personal information may be circulating and leaving us vulnerable. Fraudsters looking to take advantage of that fear have set their sights on the emails of college students, as many from Rowan have learned over the past few weeks.
The email in question claims to be from an individual named Ancheta, or “J2Ancheta on the dark web.” They claim to have hacked into each individual student’s email account, “injected code into [their] device” with which they’ve been “monitoring [the students’] activity.” They then claim to have activated the device’s webcam during while the student allegedly visited adult sites, and request $800 to be sent to a bitcoin address in order to keep the alleged material from being distributed.
Screenshots of the email are included below. Note that the targeted student’s email address has been omitted out of concern for their privacy, and to avoid future scams.
A Tweet from the official Rowan IRT Twitter account warns students of the situation with a “scam alert”:
Some @RowanUniversity students have received emails claiming their computers were hacked and they were recorded while visiting adult websites. The email demands payment via bitcoin to delete the alleged recordings.
This email is a scam. Please delete it!
— Rowan University IRT (@RowanIRT) November 6, 2019
Senior human resource management major Amanda Barrett was one Rowan student who received this scam email in her inbox – . She says that the message’s level of detail is one reason why she found it so scary.
“I kind of ignored it at first because it was really late at night when I got it,” Barrett recounted. “I saw the little [subject line] about the dark web, so I opened it up and read the whole thing, and I was really scared. It was so nicely written, that I was thinking, maybe this isn’t a scam. But then I realized, it has to be a scam. I was freaking out about it for a really long time.”
However, reason eventually convinced Barrett not to fall for the scam or respond to the attempted fake blackmail. However, she understands the increased security risks that accompany our increased reliance on digital technology.
“I feel like hacking into your phone is very easy nowadays,” Barrett said, “and hacking into laptops is really common now. So like, what if someone has been watching through my webcam or listening through my phone? Someone way younger or much older would be more vulnerable to fall for one of these scams.”
To protect accounts and passwords, Rowan IRT recommends authenticating Duo two-step login. Meanwhile, the Better Business Bureau offers 10 steps to learn how to spot and avoid scam emails.
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