The practice of "sextortion" is becoming increasingly common, and authorities are issuing warnings as well as tips on what people should do if they are targeted.
Cyber criminals are using stolen photos, video and data from people, hoping the targets will pay a ransom to prevent embarrassing or racy photos from going public.
Richmond police say "sextortion" came up at a recent community meeting, and they are posting a new warning and advice on how to fight back.
"Sextortion" is a combination of stalking and blackmail, all done online and without a trace. Cyber criminals send emails claiming to have taken a video of their victims while they were visiting pornographic websites.
The scammers don’t provide evidence of the video, but they do have one of your passwords, suggesting they know a lot about you and your personal life. And while that password may come from an unrelated public data breach, they want you to believe it’s tied to your connection to that porn website.
"Most of the time, it’s just a scam," Richmond police spokesperson Alicia Moore said. "Never send or wire any money at all."
Those who have been victimized have paid out as much as $1,000.
Richmond police say people can check whether their information is part of a public data breach using Credit Karma’s free Identity Monitoring feature or the site "Have I Been Pawned?"