Cyber blackmail targets office workers

Tuesday, 30 December 2003, 4:50 PM EST

The extortion scam, which is believed to have surfaced one year ago, indiscriminately targets anyone on the corporate ladder with a PC connected to the Internet.

It usually starts with a threatening e-mail in which the author claims to have the power to take over a worker's computer through an exploit in the corporate network, experts said.

The e-mail typically contains a demand that unless a small fee is paid -- at first no more than $20 or $30 -- they will attack the PC with a file-wiping programme or download onto the machine images of child pornography.

"They prey on the nice secretary who wouldn't do anything wrong. When she gets one of these e-mails she thinks 'Oh, my goodness what am I going to do?' So she puts it on her credit card and transfers the funds to the (suspect's online bank) account and hopes it goes away," a British detective specializing in cyber-crime told Reuters.

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