There’s a new bitcoin scam extorting funds from unfaithful spouses, but it’s using an old-fashioned medium: the United States Postal Service (USPS).
Cybersecurity researcher Brian Krebs reports that scam artists have begun sending personalized letters via snail mail, threatening to tell the recipient’s spouse about an alleged extramarital affair unless he or she pays the extortionist several thousand dollars in bitcoin.
“You don’t know me personally and nobody hired me to look into you,” one such letter begins. “Nor did I go out looking to burn you. It is just your bad luck that I stumbled across your misadventures while working on a job around Bellevue,” the recipient’s hometown.
The letters, which appear from anecdotal accounts to primarily target men, then threaten that the author will inform the recipient’s wife about the affair unless he sends a lump sum of bitcoin — ranging in amount from $3,600 to $8,500 — to an address listed in the letter.
“Let me tell you what will happen if you choose this path [ignore the letter]. I will take this evidence and send it to your wife. And as insurance against you intercepting it before your wife gets it, I will also send copies to her friends and family. So, [first name redacted], even if you decide to come clean with your wife, it won’t protect her from the humiliation she will feel when her friends and family find out your sordid details from me,” the letter warns.
“I’m not looking to break your bank,” the author adds. “I just want to be compensated for the time I put into investigating you.”
Bitcoin’s use in extortion schemes has been well-documented, largely because transactions are uncensorable and pseudonymous. In fact, a similar scheme made the rounds in 2015 following the hack of Ashley Madison — a hookup site for married people — which led to the leak of the site’s user database. However, in this instance, the extortionists carried out the scheme via email and specifically targeted Ashley Madison users.
The present scheme, however, appears indiscriminate, as multiple individuals have reported receiving a letter despite remaining faithful to their spouses, and the author has failed to follow through on the threat to expose the alleged affair.
It seems likely, then, that the perpetrator is using the medium of snail mail to lend credibility to the empty threats in the hope that a portion of the letters will reach the mailboxes of the approximately one-in-five spouses who have committed infidelity.