The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is attempting to combat bitcoin blackmail scams by offering consumers advice through its website.
In a bulletin published on Aug. 21, the FTC Division of Consumer and Business Education posted a sample quote from a typical BTC blackmail scam:
“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.”
Notably, the sample doesn’t specify the nature of the “secret”, which is a common tactic employed by scammers who use sweeping generalisations in the hopes that someone’s guilty conscience will get the better of them and cause them to panic and pay up, unaware that the scammer has just sent out hundreds or thousands of such emails indiscriminately.
In January CCN reported a similar scam targeting victims with paper mail through the U.S. Postal Service. The scammer or scammers accused their many targets of having extramarital affairs, hoping that a few people coincidentally guilty of infidelity would send them bitcoin to “keep quiet.” As CCN reported, the scammers may have been aware that an estimated one in five spouses have committed infidelity at some point.
The FTC post deals specifically with a scam accusing men of infidelity, citing threats, high-pressure tactics, and intimidation as classic signs of a scam and urging vigilance. A linked post called ten things you can do to prevent fraud deals with advice from the FTC on the matter.
The government organization advises consumers to avoid sending personal information to strangers making unexpected requests, something increasingly difficult to do in the modern age. Further advice is to conduct online searches of any suspect organizations including the words “scam” or “review” in the search engine to see if other people have complained about the group asking for information.
Paying upfront for promised reward is also a classic mistake to make in a scam, as well as depositing a check which may later bounce and leave the victim liable. The FTC warns people that caller IDs can be spoofed these days and advises that people simply hang up on phone calls including a pre-recorded sales pitch. Free trial offers are often scams aimed at gathering credit card details, and the method of payment is also telling: methods that offer the victim no recourse in terms of a refund (such as Western Union or cryptocurrency) are often used by scammers.
Finally, the FTC advises people to talk to someone they trust before sending money to strangers and to sign up for the free scam alerts email service the organization offers to help prevent fraud.
More and more bitcoin scams have been cropping up recently, with one in Hawaii threatening to disconnect the victim’s utility services unless a phony bill is paid. CCN reported yesterday that a South Korean businessman recently lost $2.3 million in a Bitcoin to Fiat p2p scam.
With scammers becoming increasingly more inventive with their methods, it’s important to stay vigilant. A group of blockchain companies recently established a Crypto Community Watch group with a 100 BTC reward designed to incentivize whistleblowing and consistent reporting of scams in the cryptocurrency space.
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