The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), an independent government agency that focuses on consumer protection, recently issued a warning against “bitcoin blackmailing scams.” The FTC’s Division of Consumer and Business Education reported on August 21st that they’ve discovered a new bitcoin scam that targets men.
The consumer protection notice explained that scammers are sending threatening letters to men in which they demand payments in Bitcoin (BTC) “in exchange for keeping quiet about alleged affairs.” In their intimidating messages, the scammers also tell their victims how to make payments in the pseudonymous cryptocurrency.
$8,600 Confidentiality Fee
According to the FTC, many users have become the target of these exploitative letters and it considers them to be a “criminal extortion attempt to separate people from from their money.” The consumer protection agency also shared what appears to be an excerpt from a bitcoin blackmailing scam letter, which threatens its recipients:
“I know about the secret you are keeping from your wife and everyone else. You can ignore this letter, or pay me a $8600 confidentiality fee in Bitcoin”.
"Criminal Extortion", "Classical Signs Of A Scam"
These types of messages are “classical signs of scam”, according to the FTC, as they use “threats, intimidation, and high-pressure tactics.” The agency has also instructed people who receive such messages, or know someone who has, to immediately report it to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and their police department.
Notably, a similar scam was reported in the US state of Hawaii in which scammers pose as customer service representatives from local utility and energy companies such as Hawaii Electric Light and Maui Electric. The fraudsters then claim that the user has not paid their outstanding electricity bill and their power will be cut off if the overdue charges are not paid immediately using bitcoin.
This crypto scam also uses the same high-pressure tactics in which the scammer demands that the money be paid “right away” or promptly. They also threaten their victims in many cases by telling them that they will be arrested if they don’t make the payment. Per the FTC, government agencies and debt collectors are not allowed to threaten anyone.
Hundreds Of Fraudulent And Threatening Calls, Emails
Despite clear warnings from authorities, it appears that many people have still become victims of these malicious scams. Hawaii’s local television network Khon 2 reported that hundreds of fraudulent calls had been made during the last month and that three businesses even paid hundreds of dollars to the scammers using Bitcoin ATM machines.
Shannon Tangonan, communications director at Hawaiian Electric, revealed that,
“They [electricity bills] weren’t even overdue, but the scammers sounded so convincing that these business owners were willing to pay. They actually went to a bitcoin machine as directed by these scammers and fed cash into the machines.”
As CryptoGlobe reported in July, a blackmailing scam targeting porn viewers had surfaced. The scammers had been attempting to extort $1,900 in bitcoin from their victims by telling them that they would share footage of them watching porn with everyone in the their contacts list if they did not pay up.
These bad actors claimed in their emails to users that they had gained access to the their private information and had recorded them viewing porn by using malware. However, Cornell professor Emin Gün Sirer said it was a “bluff” and told everyone targeted by the scam to “be careful out there, never pay, never negotiate.”