Caution: blackmail e-mails are going around

If you receive an e-mail that at first sight appears to come from your own e-mail address, do not panic! It does not necessarily mean that your e-mail account has been hacked. Here is what you need to do if you receive such an e-mail.

Anyone can send e-mails in your name

New blackmail e-mails are going aroundCurrent e-mail protocols do not verify the mail sender’s identity. Put simply: anyone can create an account in their e-mail program and send e-mails from this account. You could even enter or The e-mail protocol does not check that the address exists or even whether you are entitled to use that e-mail address. This technique is called ‘spoofing’.

Have you received a blackmailing e-mail with your own e-mail address as sender? Do not panic, as these are usually ‘harmless’ spam messages.

Others can use your e-mail address just as easily as you do. When you receive an e-mail that appears at first sight to come from your own e-mail address, you do not need to get in a panic. It does not mean that hackers have broken into your e-mail account or have access to your mailboxes.

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Purpose of these e-mails: spam, phishing, malware or blackmail

Everyone can send blackmail e-mails in your nameBut why is the sender using these fake e-mail addresses? There can be various reasons for this…

Most misuse of someone’s e-mail address happens with addresses of organisations such as supermarkets, providers, etc. This usually involves ‘phishing’ e-mails, whose purpose is to forward spam or obtain financial or other information. You can read more about this type of e-mails in our previous blog on fake e-mails.

The latest wave of fake e-mails is misusing personal e-mail addresses with the aim of blackmailing you.

Characteristics of the latest blackmailing e-mails

  • The sender sends you an e-mail with your personal e-mail address as sender and claims to have gained access to your e-mail account. Or even to have taken control of your computer.
  • In some cases, the e-mail mentions a password that you have used for a particular website.
  • The sender says you have been hacked because you have browsed an ‘adult site’ or similar.
  • The sender is only prepared to return control of your mailbox to you, or to destroy incriminating material that has been obtained, after payment of a ransom, usually in bitcoins.

What should you do if you receive a blackmailing e-mail?

  • Contact our helpdesk when in doubt about blackmail e-mailsStay calm!
  • The password was probably stolen in a large-scale data theft involving millions of e-mail addresses and passwords. Normally, you will have been notified about this theft and will have changed your password since then. Not sure about this? You can check whether your e-mail address was involved in any such theft at HaveIbeenPwned.
  • Never give in to this kind of blackmail. The sender has no power over you whatsoever – after all, the e-mail contains no proof of what is being claimed. If you were to give in to the blackmail, you would merely expose yourself to further blackmail!
  • This blackmailing e-mail is no proof whatsoever that your computer has been hacked. Signs that you could have been hacked are: your computer is slow or boots up very slowly; your antivirus has been switched off without your knowledge; your cursor moves independently or you start to see a lot of pop-ups.
  • If in doubt, feel free to send your e-mail to us or call our helpdesk (free of charge).

Contact our support service in case of any doubt

General points to consider for assessing suspicious e-mails

  1. Study e-mail addresses and URLs carefully before clicking on them.That is really easy to do in your computer’s e-mail program: hover the cursor over a clickable link and the full web address will be displayed in the status bar. The full sender address in the ‘From’ line also usually gives a good indication: a mail from Telenet but with a sender address like should immediately make you suspicious.

Tip: most e-mail clients and browsers allow you to activate the status bar via the ‘View’ menu.

  1. Be extra careful with e-mails you view on your smartphone.The ‘hover’ option is not available there! What you can do though: press and hold the e-mail address or link and choose the ‘copy’ option from the context menu. Paste the address or link into your memo app to view the underlying link.
  2. Protect your computer and smartphone with a good antivirus. If you accidentally click on an infected link, your antivirus should prevent the malware from taking effect.
  3. Keep your computer and smartphone up to date, regularly back up your data and use strong passwords.If anything does go wrong, it will then be easier to recover your device.
  4. Think about it: if something seems too good to be true, it probably is not! It is best to steer clear of links in e-mails that announce you have won prizes in competitions which you did not enter!

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