An email scam is trying to extort thousands of dollars from recipients, threatening to release scandalous information and using recipients’ own former passwords.
ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. — Chances are if you’ve had any kind of online presence or account long enough, you’ve received a fraudulent email trying to extort money from you.
But one currently circulating is a bit more threatening than many others because, in the subject line, the sender includes a password that the recipient is using or has used in the past. In the note itself, the sender repeats the password, claims to have video of the recipient involved in sexual activity and threatens to publicize that video if the recipient doesn’t send money quickly.
“That gives you the sense of credibility that they do in fact have something on you, and that basically they’re trying to extort you,” Chuck Mulligan of the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office told First Coast News on Monday, explaining that his jurisdiction alone had received a number of calls from worried recipients of similar emails since Friday.
In one case, he said, “The individual was continuing to email multiple times, asking for several thousand dollars in Bitcoin to be exchanged through a wire-type service.”
Indeed, having something closely guarded such as a one’s password read back to them by a would-be blackmailer inherently feels more individual and threatening, but the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office urged people to be aware that this scam is targeting a large number of people. Mulligan said passwords probably leaked out from a security breach at some point, even though it’s not clear where or when.
“Every time you hear of a breach somewhere, either it be a tech company or some sort of server system,” he said. “So, these individuals are out hacking information and they’re trying to obtain personal information from us, all the time. And so what happens when they get pieces of that information, they begin to build a scam around it.”
So, while people ought to be comforted that they, in fact, are not being singled out and that the scammers probably are working with obsolete data, Mulligan stressed the importance of not sending money as the email demands (a scam email to me insisted that I send $3,000 in exchange for non-publication of the purported scandalous material about me) because you’ll probably never get that money back.
“[It’s] very difficult to…