This e-mail scam looks like it was scripted by Black Mirror's Charlie Brooker

Having received two enquiries so far from two different IAfrikan readers, we decided to look into the e-mails they forwarded to us and if indeed they were legitimate. The readers, whose identities we will withhold, were both initially worried that the e-mails they received were valid.

The e-mails they received were each from different addresses and were mostly similar except in two specific places which I will highlight later in this article. The one e-mail, which we used for our investigation, read as follows:

========== Begin forwarded e-mail ==========
From : Jacob Young
Date : Wed, 24 Jan 2018 20:22:52 +0200
Subject : FW: 24 Jаn 2018 07:07:25 I'm afraid I'll upset you

Good day.

If you were more watchful while playing with yourself, I wouldn't write dis message. I don't think that playing with yourself is really bad, but when all colleagues, relatives and friends receive video of it- it is definitely for u.

I adjusted virus on a web-site for adults (with porn) which you have visited. When the target click on a play button, device starts recording the screen and all cameras on your device starts working.

Moreover, my program makes a rdp supplied with keylogger function from your device , so I was able to collect all contacts from ur e-mail, messengers and other social networks. I'm writing on this e-mail because It's your working address, so u must read it.

I suppose that 300 usd is pretty enough for this little false. I made a split screen video(records from screen (u have interesting tastes ) and camera ooooooh... its funny AF)

So its ur choice, if u want me to destroy this сompromising evidence use my bitcоin wallet аddrеss: 1MbmrqtoUAjhQ1JEnQZdfVEaUbqrverTQh

You have one day after opening my message, I put the special tracking pixel in it, so when you will open it I will see.If ya want me to show u the proofs, reply on this message and I will send my creation to five contacts that I've got from ur device.

P.S. You are able to complain to cops, but I don't think that they can solve ur problem, the investigation will last for several months- I'm from Ukraine - so I dgf lmao

========== End forwarded e-mail ==========

After reading the e-mail, it sounded quite familiar but I couldn't place where I had heard or seen something similar. It was only after reading a similar e-mail from a different reader a couple of days later that it clicked that this was quite similar to an episode of Black Mirror. Black Mirror is a Sci-Fi series written by Charlie Brooker. In the different episodes it explores a near-future world where "humanity's greatest innovations and darkest instincts collide", making most who have viewed it question technology's impact on our day to day lives. In season 3, episode 3 of Black Mirror (titled "Shut Up and Dance), a young man discovers that some malware (or a virus) was installed on his computer as someone anonymous sends him first a message on the computer explaining that they have a video of him "pleasuring himself" (they actually send him a sample of the video they recorded from his computer's camera) and that they will release this video to their family, friends and colleagues, should he not comply with instructions they will send to him via SMS.

After remembering that episode of Black Mirror and now having received two almost identical e-mails from two different e-mail addresses to two different iAfrikan readers it was somewhat clear that this was probably a scam. We also confirmed this by checking various forums and communities that deal with malware and cybercrime and it was confirmed that not only was it a scam, but that this is a second wave of the scam as it previously had gone viral being sent initially to university students.

Given how worried our two readers were, we thought, we need to make sure that this is actually a scam and asked both of them to respond to the e-mail asking the sender if this was really true (Note: it was already past the one-day deadline for one of them). Only the second scammer responded, using a different e-mail address this time:

========== Begin forwarded e-mail ==========
From : keshia down
To : [REDACTED] Date : Thu, 25 Jan 2018 04:40:03 +0200 Subject : FW: Re: 24 Jаn 2018 07:07:25 I'm afraid I'll upset you

Willingly,this is a warning, after one day the evidence will be published

or,please make the payment after that 100%, we will remove your video

> Sent from my iPhone

========== End forwarded e-mail ==========

At this point our reader was worried. We didn't ask any questions except to assure them that this was a scam and that they shouldn't pay a cent. We asked them to stall a bit further and send another e-mail. After much deliberation and discussion, they did, asking the scammer Where are you from? The scammer, to this day, had still not responded, to the relief of our reader. The only difference between the two e-mails was that in the one e-mail where the scammer didn't respond to any e-mails, they mentioned at the end of the e-mails that they are from Estonia, while the one who did respond indicated in the initial e-mail that they were from the Ukraine. The other difference, the Bitcoin addresses.

The question however is, has anyone fallen for this?

It's very difficult to say with definite certainty if anyone has fallen for this and paid the scammers. The only way to determine probability of if someone did fall for the scam is to check the associated Bitcoin addresses. So, we can only speak for the two Bitcoin addresses which were used in the e-mails, namely1sdVjarp83LgB8ogxPg3ZavURd8tE36Mo and 1MbmrqtoUAjhQ1JEnQZdfVEaUbqrverTQh.

For the first address, 1sdVjarp83LgB8ogxPg3ZavURd8tE36Mo, there are no transactions to be found. For the second address, however, there were 2 transactions which sent a total of 0.02859653 BTC to 1MbmrqtoUAjhQ1JEnQZdfVEaUbqrverTQh. This amounts to approximately $300 depending on which exchange and in which country you decide to sell your Bitcoin in. Now, again, this doesn't necessarilly definitevely confirm without any doubt that someone fell for the scam, but given the total amount of BTC received, it leaves you wondering.

Just be careful out there on the interwebs. If you are not sure of something, ask around. You can also e-mail us.

Lastly, if you are truly worried like our two readers when they approached us, just cover your computer's webcam and only open it when you need it 😉.