August 2, 2018
20th Judicial District
District Attorney Michael Dougherty
Community Protection Division: 303-441-3700
Consumer Advisory from District Attorney Michael Dougherty
(Boulder County, Colo.) -- District Attorney Michael
Dougherty advises residents to exercise caution with regard to bogus extortion letters and emails demanding payment in bitcoin. The Community Protection Division of the DA’s
office (CPD) is receiving an uptick in complaints from local residents who are on the receiving end of this threatening correspondence: the CPD warns that these emails and letters are a scam, and advises
those who receive them not to respond or send money to the
How does the scam work?
A scammer sends a threatening letter
in the mail; the envelope contains no return address, and the letter can be
postmarked from anywhere in the country.
In the letter, the sender claims to have evidence of the recipient’s
supposed “secrets,” and threatens to tell the recipient’s family and friends about
the recipient’s purported infidelity unless the recipient pays a sum of money
in bitcoin. The amount requested as a
“confidentiality fee” can range anywhere from hundreds to tens of
thousands of dollars. The letter also contains
detailed instructions as to how to make the bitcoin payment.
In another version of the scam, the
threatening message is received via email.
The email may contain a password that the recipient recognizes – some recipients
have reported that these were old passwords at unused accounts. The sender claims that the recipient’s
computer or email account has been compromised, that malware has been installed
onto the recipient’s computer, or even that the sender possesses video recordings of illicit
conduct obtained from the recipient’s web camera.
Regardless of whether this threatening
correspondence is received by mail or email, these scams are likely generated
from information available on the internet; it is extremely unlikely that
senders are targeting specific individuals.
The CPD advises that if you are a recipient of this scam extortion attempt, do not respond, and do not send any money. And report
the CPD at (303) 441-3700.
- If you receive a
scam letter through the mail, report it to the U.S. Postal Inspector by calling 1-877-876-2455 or by visiting www.usps.com/postalinspectors .
- If you receive it
via email, report it to the FBI Internet
Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.
You can also report
scam emails to your email service provider:
- Gmail: https://support.google.com/mail/answer/8253?hl=en
- Yahoo: https://safety.yahoo.com/Security/REPORTING-ISSUES.html
- AOL: forward the email to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Outlook: https://support.office.com/en-us/article/deal-with-abuse-phishing-or-spoofing-in-outlook-com-0d882ea5-eedc-4bed-aebc-079ffa1105a3
- Mac: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204759
The CPD also offers the following suggestions with
respect to any unsolicited mail, email or phone call that you receive:
Use caller ID to screen calls, and do not pick up calls from unknown
- Be wary of anyone asking you to send money through
a third party, such as Bitcoin, Western Union or MoneyGram, or by purchasing
your online passwords safe:
- Use long
and strong passwords: create
passwords that contain a mix of letters (both capital and lower case), numbers
and symbols, and are at least 8 characters long.
- Use unique
passwords for each online account.
- Consider a password manager. Password
management software creates, retrieves, and keeps track of long, random passwords
across numerous accounts, allowing you to use unique passwords on different
sites. Most programs also encrypt
password information to provide further security.
- Implement two-factor
authentication on financial and sensitive accounts. This is an extra layer of security designed
to ensure that you're the only person who can access your accounts, even if
someone else knows your password.
Contact your bank, credit union or other account provider to find out
how to implement two-factor authentication on your accounts.
Contact the CPD with questions about suspicious mail, email or phone calls.