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FTC Issues Alert For Bitcoin Blackmail Scams

The Federal Trade Commission released an alert on bitcoin blackmail scams. In these schemes, scammers threaten victims with public revelation of their “secret” unless they send a payment in Bitcoin.
The National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center encouraged users and administrators to refer to the FTC Alert and a related FBI press release for more information.

The FTC alert provides recommendations for evading the blackmail scam. Cristina Miranda with the division of consumer and business education, FTC, described how the scam works. The scammers first send a letter containing something like, “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.”
The letter also explains how to use bitcoin to make the payment. “This is a criminal extortion attempt to separate people from their money,” the FTC warned.

The FBI Jacksonville Division cautioned central Florida residents and beyond of a similar con targeting a variety of individuals. FBI Ocala received numerous reports of the blackmail scam in recent weeks.

The con usually begins when a scammer sending an anonymous letter claiming to have uncovered evidence the letter recipient committed acts of adultery. The scammer threatens to reveal the information to the recipient’s spouse, family and friends, and demands payment in exchange for secrecy. To avoid detection, the scammer frequently insists on payment in bitcoin, a virtual currency that is legitimate but difficult to track.
“The blackmail scam is not new. It comes in many forms and will continue to evolve as scammers change their tactics to remain successful. It is also unknown how widespread this version of the blackmail scam is currently,” The FBI alert specified.

The FBI advised victims of the blackmail scam, or any other fraud, to contact their financial institutions and file a report with law enforcement.

The blackmail scheme is part of the ongoing onslaught of cybercrimes testing individuals and organizations in all industries.

Clifton, N.J.- based cybersecurity firm Comodo in its blog warned that while most cybercrimes are carried out for personal, some are carried out to damage or disable computers and other devices, while others are used to spread malware, spam, illegal data or other materials.

Recognizing a cybercrime depends on the type of malicious activity carried out by the cybercriminal. If malware gets downloaded on a computer, it might slow down or crash a system. “Phishing attacks, on the other hand, trick you into revealing your passwords and personal data,” James Raymond of Comodo said in a blog.

Keyloggers which operate stealthily in the background record keystrokes (especially banking credentials). There are also chances that a computer gets enslaved to a botnet, which helps the cybercriminals perform DDoS attacks, steal private and confidential user information, send spam, etc.

Some of the common telltale signs that indicate a possible cybercrime performed on a computer.

It becomes slow and unresponsive.
It crashes and restarts frequently.
Applications crash frequently.
The storage is inaccessible or corrupted.
Unusual error messages appear.
Unwanted popup messages appear.

“If any of those symptoms mentioned above show up on your computer, then it is a clear sign of cybercrime performed on your computer. Apart from the signs discussed above, cybercrimes can also lead to changes in the names of your system files, execute software applications that will transfer your files from one folder to another. Some cybercrimes can even completely wipe your data stored on the computer,” Comodo warned.

The Comodo alert added cybercrimes can be carried out with the help of malicious software codes, scripts, active content, and other malicious software that seems legitimate. “Most cases of cybercrimes are carried out using the known security vulnerabilities such as an outdated operating system and absence of antivirus programs to start the attack.”

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Pesach Lattin

Pesach "Pace" Lattin is one of the top experts in interactive advertising, affiliate marketing. Pace Lattin is known for his dedication to ethics in marketing, and focus on compliance and fraud in the industry, and has written numerous articles for publications from MediaPost, ClickZ, ADOTAS and his own blogs.

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