Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Bitcoin Bomb Scam Explodes on Homefront

bitcoin scam email

Staying home isn’t even safe for my family anymore during the COVID-19 pandemic because apparently we have an “explosive device” in our house even more lethal than the homemade eight-bean chili in the freezer.

We learned this through an email my wife received last week. It instructed her to transfer $10,000 into a Bitcoin account lest a hidden device be detonated by a hitman “keeping the area under control.” I immediately recognized this as a hoax because, seriously — a bomb, an extortionist AND a hitman? So excessive for the suburbs.

But if you can have a favorite part of an ultimatum placed on your life, my wife and I agreed it was the closing disclaimer. It stated the senders are not part of a “terrorist society” and “do not take liability for explosions in other places.” Our assailants either are extremely humble or unemployed corporate attorneys.

As suspected, a little Googling revealed this all to be a scam. It’s not nearly as popular as the ol’ “Nigerian prince needs your help retrieving his fortune” emails but it’s far more straightforward. Rather than playing to your “get rich without really trying” instincts to nab your bank account information, this one resorts to old-school fear to try to collect new-age cryptocurrency.

Bitcoin scams like this one started as simple blackmail: anonymous people claim to have photos or video of you naked, watching porn and/or having illicit sex that they will send to your loved ones unless you fork over a couple thousand in digital cash. Since the internet has made being naked, watching porn and/or having illicit sex less of a novelty, the criminal world eventually upped the ante. Wired.com reported in December 2018 that a series of these phony bomb threats — with very similar wording to the one my wife received — were emailed to businesses around the country demanding Bitcoin payments of $20,000. Our family apparently attracts bargain extortionists.

With many so offices these days closed by COVID-19, it appears the scam has moved to the home front as proved by the threat my wife received coming to her personal, not work, email. While I find it hard to believe people still fall for such inbox swindles, they do. The aforementioned Nigerian prince con alone bilked Americans out of $700,000 in 2018, according to a report by ADT Security Services. But given this Perpetual Pandemic Sequester we are in, I’ve been imagining how these crooks are going to start to put some more current event spins on these old schemes:
  • “We have placed an incendiary device in your toilet paper reserves. If you fail to pay, notify the authorities or attempt to squeeze the Charmin, we will leave your ass hanging out to dry.”
  • “Congratulations! You have won the Irish Spring Sweepstakes! If you keep this confidential (VERY SECRET!), and promptly contact our lottery agent to verify your shipping address, Social Security Number and mother’s maiden name we will immediately send your prize: A year’s supply of soap and hand sanitizer.”
  • “I saw what you were doing, and I thought it was pretty hot! But will your spouse? Now send me all your Clorox wipes, you dirty filthy beast.”
  • “Our records indicate that your car warranty is up for renewal. Since no one drives these days, we have a special offer for you! For $5,000 in Bitcoin, we will neutralize your choice of Flo and Jamie from Progressive, the GEICO gecko, or LiMu Emu and Doug from Liberty Mutual.”
  • “My Mercenary knows where you keep your baking supplies. Meet our demands or your yeast is dead! DEAD!”
Bitcoin scam photo by Infosec Images on Foter.com / CC BY

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