Internet Users Lost $8 Million in Extortion Scams in 2021, FBI Warns

The FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) is warning consumers of a considerable increase in sextortion scams since the start of this year.

According to its latest report, as of July 2021, the agency has received over 16,000 complaints, with losses of over $8 million.

“Nearly half of these extortion victims were in the 20-39 age group,” the IC3 said. “Victims over 60 years comprised the third largest reporting age group, while victims under the age of 20 reported the fewest number of complaints.”

Most victims report getting in touch with fraudsters via online dating apps and platforms. The fraudsters immediately suggest switching to a messaging platform and encouraging the exchange of compromising photos or video chat.

“Immediately after the victim complies, the fraudster blackmails the victim and demands money to prevent the release of the photos or videos on social media,” the FBI added. “The fraudster often gains access to the victim’s social media or contact information and threatens to send the images to the victim’s family and friends.”

Bitdefender Antispam Labs have also observed extensive extortion campaigns in recent months. In the most recent attempts, the scammers used a different tactic to defraud victims. They stated that login credentials to the victims’ online account were purchased from the web and that malware was installed on their device, and threatened to expose compromising videos to family and friends.

How to protect against extortion scams

  • Don’t send compromising images to individuals you meet online
  • Don’t open attachments or access links you receive via unsolicited messages from individuals you don’t know. These links or attachments may house malicious software (including spyware) that can compromise your device, giving the attacker access to your private data
  • Turn off electronic devices and web cameras when not in use
  • Install a security solution on your device
  • Maintain good cyber hygiene and periodically review passwords for your online accounts

The FBI recommends that targets stop any interaction with the extortionist, contact law enforcement and file a complaint at

Every online activity you indulge in could be harmful. It’s easy to get lost in the minefield of unsafe web surfing that exposes users to malware-serving websites and phishing attempts. Our cross-platform Bitdefender Total Security solution packs enterprise-grade protection security layers to ensure safe digital encounters. The web attack prevention alongside anti-phishing and anti-fraud filtering systems check every website you access for threats, blocking all known infected or malicious links.