A reader is worried about some disturbing emails he’s been receiving:

My wife keeps getting threatening emails from someone who says they have embarrassing pictures, to send them “bitcoins” and don’t contact the police.
This is very stressful as we are trying to buy a new home and sell one, it is very distracting.
What options do we have?
1) Go to a local computer security store?
2) Only use our Gmail address instead of our ISP address?
They say they have our user password which we use a lot with numbers at the end.
Any suggestions?

Interestingly enough, I went to breakfast with a pal on Sunday and she received almost exactly the same email, only hers threatened to report her for watching porn. They had part of one of her usernames in the email as well.

Of course, this is a big, fat scam. Going to the local computer store won’t help, nor does it matter which email provider you use. Millions of folks are being targeted.

My guess is that they got their hands on your username by hacking one of the sites that you use it with (or if you posted a comment or question on a site that shows your email address and username). Even if a site was hacked, most sites don’t store you password information all in one place. Hackers might get your username or part of it, but not your password.

Now, if I were you, I’d change all of usernames and passwords on every account I have online, just in case. It wouldn’t hurt to report them to the police, but I can pretty much guarantee that this is probably a foreign operation and not specifically targeting you. As users become more sophisticated about scams, these crooks are stepping up their games with even worse threats. Do not fall for it.