Threat Alert: Sextortion phishing scams have surged in 2023

With millions participating in Prime Day, Amazon scams proliferated

In late December ConsumerAffairs reported on a troubling new scam: sextortion targeting adolescents and teen boys.

The scammer poses as a young girl and persuades the victim to text a sexually explicit photo of themselves. That, of course, is against the law. It’s considered distributing child pornography.

The scammer then threatens to distribute the photo unless a payment is made using gift cards. Authorities say at least one suicide resulted from the scam. Since then the scam has evolved in other ways and surged in the first half of this year.

“Trend Micro has seen sextortion scams increase by over 50% from Q1’23 to Q2’23 with over 11,158,648 scams being seen in the first half of 2023,” Jon Clay, vice president of Threat Intelligence at Trend Micro, told ConsumerAffairs.

In the latest version of the scam, criminals simply claim to have nude photos of the target. Clay says that if anyone is hit with this scam they should call the local FBI office or toll-free at 1-800-CALL-FBI. 

It was a busy week for scammers as the rest of the ConsumerAffairs-Trend Micro Threat Alert shows.

Amazon-related Scam/Phishing 

  • Trend Micro's research team identified scammers sending SMS messages saying, “Due to your account payment issue, you need to log in via the fake URLs on the message.” The victims might share their phone numbers and credit card info with scammers since they were asked to use these to process the payment. 

  • The top five states being targeted are California, Texas, Alabama, Arkansas and Colorado 

  • As we saw last week, to get victims’ personal information, scammers pretended to celebrate Amazon Prime Day and then Invited users to sign-up and can get free shipping benefits.  

  • The top 5 states being targeted are Washington, Ohio, Minnesota, Virginia and Missouri 

 Phone/iPad Survey Scam 

  • Trend Micro research team found scammers trying to invite users to participate in the short survey and the joiners can get iPhone or iPad as a reward. 

  • The top five states being targeted are Texas, Florida, New York, North Carolina and California.

 Travel Scam  

  • From April 1 to July 9, Trend Micro identified 2,154 travel-related scam URLs, which increased by 3.7% compared to the past weeks.  

  • Trend Micro found 3 fake Airbnb login pages, with over one-third of the victims are from Oregon (32.43%). 

  • The top five states being targeted are Oregon, Virginia, Washington, Pennsylvania and Illinois. 

 National Westminster Bank Scam (NatWest Scam)  

  • Trend Micro's research team identified scammers impersonating NatWest Bank prompting potential victims to verify their mobile update via a fake link, redirecting them to provide their phone numbers to scammers. Trend Micro detected 637 logs on July 6. 

 Malware Mail Phishing 

  • Trend Micro research team found a phishing email pretending to be a shopping site that sends victims a fake confirmation letter to their order. The confirmation email contains an attachment and a link that allows the victim to check for the order detail, but the link will direct them to a fake page. If the victims download the attachment, it gives the scammers access to their computers. Trend Micro detected 174 logs on July 5. 

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