The coronavirus pandemic has prompted a rise in the number of online extortion scams that are making their way around the web. These extortion scams come in a variety of formats.

Here’s a classic example: A hacker may send you an email saying that he/she has the password to your computer, providing full access, and that he/she will engage in compromising, malicious activity unless a ransom is paid.

If this happens to you, here’s what to do:

  1. Don’t panic. Says Davy Winder at Forbes, “If they were such an elite hacker, why are they sending you an email instead of simply locking you out of the computer they supposedly have full control over?” The password of yours that a hacker tries to taunt you with is likely one that you use for other accounts. Chances are high that the hacker grabbed the password from a data breach database; a location on the dark web that serves as a warehouse for stolen passwords.
  2. Replace your password. Go to all of your accounts where the password in question was used. Replace your compromised password with a newer, stronger one. In the future, avoid using the same password in multiple locations across the web. Password managers can be helpful in better securing your accounts, and in quickly enabling you to access accounts as needed.
  3. Report the event. You’ll want to avoid directly responding to the scammer. Save the email, and report it to either a local FBI field office (U.S. residents), or to the police (U.K. residents).

For more in-depth news about extortion scams, visit Forbes.