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Thursday, June 2, 2016
FBI: Extortion E-Mail Schemes Tied To Recent High-Profile Data Breaches
The FBI released the below public service announcement:
The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) continues to receive reports from individuals who have received extortion attempts via e-mail related to recent high-profile data thefts. The recipients are told that personal information, such as their name, phone number, address, credit card information, and other personal details, will be released to the recipient's social media contacts, family, and friends if a ransom is not paid. The recipient is instructed to pay in Bitcoin, a virtual currency that provides a high degree of anonymity to the transactions. The recipients are typically given a short deadline. The ransom amount ranges from 2 to 5 bitcoins or approximately $250 to $1,200.
The following are some examples of the extortion e-mails:
“Unfortunately your data was leaked in a recent corporate hack and I now have your information. I have also used your user profile to find your social media accounts. Using this I can now message all of your friends and family members.”
“If you would like to prevent me from sharing this information with your friends and family members (and perhaps even your employers too) then you need to send the specified bitcoin payment to the following address.”
“If you think this amount is too high, consider how expensive a divorce lawyer is. If you are already divorced then I suggest you think about how this information may impact any ongoing court proceedings. If you are no longer in a committed relationship then think about how this information may affect your social standing amongst family and friends.”
“We have access to your Facebook page as well. If you would like to prevent me from sharing this dirt with all of your friends, family members, and spouse, then you need to send exactly 5 bitcoins to the following address.”
“We have some bad news and good news for you. First, the bad news, we have prepared a letter to be mailed to the following address that details all of your activities including your profile information, your login activity, and credit card transactions. Now for the good news, You can easily stop this letter from being mailed by sending 2 bitcoins to the following address.”
Fraudsters quickly use the news release of a high-profile data breach to initiate an extortion campaign. The FBI suspects multiple individuals are involved in these extortion campaigns based on variations in the extortion emails.
If you believe you have been a victim of this scam, you should reach out to your local FBI field office, and file a complaint with the IC3 at www.ic3.gov. Please include the keyword “Extortion E-mail Scheme” in your complaint, and provide any relevant information in your complaint, including the extortion e-mail with header information and Bitcoin address if available.
TIPS TO PROTECT YOURSELF:
Do not open e-mail or attachments from unknown individuals.
Monitor your bank account statements regularly, as well and as your credit report at least once a year for any fraudulent activity.
Do not communicate with the subject.
Do not store sensitive or embarrassing photos of yourself online or on your mobile devices.
Use strong passwords and do not use the same password for multiple websites.
Never provide personal information of any sort via e-mail. Be aware, many e-mails requesting your personal information appear to be legitimate.
Ensure security settings for social media accounts are turned on and set at the highest level of protection.
When providing personally identifiable information, credit card information, or other sensitive information to a website, ensure the transmission is secure by verifying the URL prefix includes https, or the status bar displays a “lock” icon.
The FBI does not condone the payment of extortion demands as the funds will facilitate continued criminal activity, including potential organized crime activity and associated violent crimes.
Paul Davis is a writer who covers crime. He has written extensively about organized crime, street crime, sex crime, cyber crime, white collar crime, crime fiction, crime prevention, espionage and terrorism. He is a contributing editor to The Journal of Counterterrorism & Homeland Security International and a regular contributor to the Washington Times. His work has also appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Paul Davis has been a student of crime since he was a 12-year-old aspiring writer growing up in South Philadelphia. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy when he was 17 in 1970 and served on the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk during the Vietnam War. He also served two years on the Navy harbor tugboat USS Saugus at the U.S. nuclear submarine base at Holy Loch, Scotland. He went on to do security work as a Defense Department civilian employee and then became a freelance writer. You can read Paul Davis' Crime Beat columns, crime fiction and magazine and newspaper pieces on this website. You can also read his full bio by clicking on the above photo.