Call 12 for Action

FBI warns of blackmail scam targeting people with 'secrets'

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) -- "Let's get straight to the point," the email says. "I'm aware [redacted] is your password. Moreover, I'm aware about your secret."

Nick Tella, the director of information security at Johnson and Wales University, says people across the country are receiving similar threatening emails from scam artists.

"Cyber criminals are exploiting human vulnerabilities and fears through this latest email scam," Tella said. "It’s very malicious."

The FBI recently issued a warning about the blackmail scam in which scammers claim they will expose affairs or videos captured of people watching pornography.

In the email Call 12 for Action obtained, the scammer said he will send an explicit video to friends, family, and colleagues of the recipient.

"It’s a numbers game," Tella explained. "They put out 10,000 of those spam emails and they may have some people that are having an affair."

People are falling for it because the scammer has a familiar password.

"That password was obtained through the various hundreds of thousands of data breaches that have occurred in the past. That data is for sale on the dark web, so  the cyber criminals are buying it," Tella said. "Now you think this is legitimate."

According to the FBI, the scammers often demand payment in bitcoin, a virtual currency that's hard to track. In the email we obtained, the sender demanded $2,600 in bitcoin.

"We'll call this my confidentiality tip," the email says.  

In exchange, the sender promises to delete the video he claims to have.

"It's quite lucrative for them," Tella added.

In reality, the scammer doesn't have access to your contact list or your the camera on your device, so don't pay up.  

"If you receive an email like this immediately change your password and don’t re-use them," Tella suggested. "Don’t click on something you don’t know."

According to the FBI, anyone who has received a suspicious email should submit the information to the FBI’s Internet Crimes Complaint Center.


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