FBI Warns Users to Watch Out for Extortion Emails in the Wake of Data Breaches

June 2, 2016 12:51 pm David Bisson

The Federal Bureau of Investigations is warning users to be on the lookout for extortion attempts via email in the wake of several high-profile data breaches.

On Wednesday, the FBI revealed in a public service announcement that the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) continues to receive reports from users regarding email-based extortion attempts.

In most of the emails, an extortionist claims to have access to users’ personal information, including their name, phone number, address, and even social media accounts.

Each email instructs the recipient to pay a ransom fee ranging in value from two to five Bitcoins (approximately US$250 to US$1,200) within a certain amount of time.

If the recipient fails to meet that deadline, the sender threatens to expose the recipient’s information to their family, friends, and employers.

Such is the case in the following email received by the IC3:

“We have access to your Facebook page as well. If you would like to prevent me from sharing this dirt with all of your friends, family members, and spouse, then you need to send exactly 5 bitcoins to the following address.”

The FBI notes that opportunistic individuals commonly send out these types of emails following high-profile data breaches. They did just that in the aftermath of last year’s Ashley Madison hack, and they could do so again in the wake of the LinkedInMySpace, and Tumblr breaches.

Users should never give in to the extortionists’ demands, warns the FBI. Instead they should avoid clicking on suspicious links, monitor their bank statements for fraudulent activity, be careful about what types of information they share on social media, and use strong passwords on all of their web accounts.

If you think you have been a victim of an extortion email, contact your local FBI field office or reach out to the IC3 at www.ic3.gov.