The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has issued an alert, warning users of a spike in reported extortion email attempts connected to recent high-profile data breaches.
According to the advisory, targeted individuals are told that their personal information—such as their name, phone number, address, credit card information, and other personal details—will be released to their social media contacts, family and friends if the ransom is not paid.
“The recipient is instructed to pay in Bitcoin, a virtual currency that provides a high degree of anonymity to the transaction,” explained the alert. “The recipients are typically given a short deadline. The ransom amount ranges from 2 to 5 bitcoins or approximately $250 to $1,200.”
The alert detailed several examples of the extortion emails sent by fraudsters, one of which read:
“Unfortunately your data was leaked in a recent corporate hack and I now have your information. I have also used your user profile to find your social media accounts. Using this I can now message all of your friends and family members.”
Another message seen threatening to release the victim’s personal details read:
“We have some bad news and good news for you. First, the bad news, we have prepared a letter to be mailed to the following address that details all of your activities including your profile information, your login activity, and credit card transactions. Now for the good news, You can easily stop this letter from being mailed by sending 2 bitcoins to the following address.”
Based on variations seen in the extortion emails, the FBI suspects multiple individuals are involved in these extortion campaigns.
“Fraudsters quickly use the news release of a high-profile data breach to initiate an extortion campaigns,” said the IC3.
In the past month alone, millions of user accounts from popular sites like LinkedIn, MySpace and Tumblr have been found for sale on underground marketplaces.
Users who believe they have been a victim of this scam are advised to contact their local FBI field office and file a complaint with the IC3 at www.ic3.gov.
“The FBI does not condone the payment of extortion demands as the funds will facilitate continued criminal activity, including potential organized crime activity and associated violent crimes,” the alert concluded.