Police have issued a public warning following a number of reports of 'sextortion' scam emails in the area.
Examples of the emails have been posted by the Durham Cyber Safety team following a number of queries regarding the scam.
The emails usually claim that a person has been filmed committing a sexual act on their own device or computer, or that they have been accessing pornographic sites.
The criminals will then attempt to blackmail the victim stating that they will release the video to friends, family members and colleagues on social media. The email will also demand a payment is made via Bitcoin or another form of Crypto Currency.
A spokesman for the cyber safety team said: "These emails can potentially cause some upset if you receive them, however you need to be mindful that it is a scam."
The team has released the following advice:
Why did I receive this email?
These emails are a form of phishing. Phishing emails are untargeted emails sent out to thousands of email addresses that have been obtained by the criminals. It is possible that your email has been part of a data breach which has enabled you to receive this email, along with many other people.
What should I do if I receive one of these?
Don’t panic and seek advice: We have found a lot of people feel apprehensive to seek advice when they have received these emails due to the content. Our team and Action Fraud will be happy to advise on scam emails of this nature.
Don’t reply to the email or feel pressured to pay any money: If you reply you are confirming that it is a live email address, and potentially will make yourself a target for future scams. Never pay any money-that is what they want you to do and will try any tactic to pressurise you in to paying.
Delete the email or relocate it to your spam/junk folder. Do the same with any other scam emails.
Perform a password reset and run antivirus software/scans: Ensure that you have a strong password on your email account and utilise 2FA (Two Factor Authentication). You may be receiving these emails as a result of a virus, so run a scan to ensure that there is no malware lurking on your device.
Always install the latest software and app updates.
If you have received this email, report it to Action Fraud as a phishing email.
If you have received one of these emails and you have paid money, please report it to the police.