Consumer Corner: Beware of bitcoin blackmail scam

By Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt

The Kansas Attorney General’s office and our In Your Corner Kansas campaign focuses year-round on protecting consumers from scams and rip-offs. We receive reports of all different types of scams, with some of our most common being imposters posing as computer companies offering repairs, government agencies or credit card services. We find scammers try to use all the different methods at their disposal from email, to phone calls, to letters in the mail and even sometimes knocking on your door. It’s important to always be vigilant against those trying to separate you from your hard-earned money.

Lately, our office has seen a significant uptick in reports of a particularly nefarious scam. Kansans have reported receiving emails from an unrecognized sender saying that they’ve hacked your computer and recorded you visiting adult websites. The scammer threatens to distribute this recording to your friends and family within hours unless you make a payment of thousands of dollars for a “confidentiality fee” into their bitcoin account.

The Federal Trade Commission has issued a warning that these email scams may be tied to a recent data breach that exposed personal information of some consumers. Due to that exposure, the scammer may offer either your current password or an older password in the message in an attempt to prove to you they are telling the truth. Don’t fall for it. Do not make a payment, click on any links or reply to the message. Delete the email.

Use this opportunity as a reminder to update your email passwords. Consider updating all your passwords, especially if you’ve used the same password for other accounts as the one that was potentially exposed in a data breach.

If you’ve been contacted by a scammer threatening blackmail unless you pay with bitcoin, file a complaint with the attorney general’s Consumer Protection Division at www.InYourCornerKansas.org or for more information call 800-432-2310.

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