Bitcoin, iTunes,Google Pay?- Increase in Fraudulent Scams Targeting Residents

The Westtown-East Goshen Regional Police Department has seen a substantial increase in various fraudulent schemes aimed at citizens. In addition to the common IRS scam, many citizens are reporting that they received emails stating there is “sexually explicit photos or videos” of them and they must pay a fee or those photos and videos will be released.

Below is valuable information published by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). It provides information on common scams, prevention tips, as well as information on how to report the scam directly to the FBI.

“The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) warned today of an increasing number of online extortion scam reports because a lot more people are being targeted due to the "stay-at-home" orders issued during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Because large swaths of the population are staying at home and likely using the computer more than usual, scammers may use this opportunity to find new victims and pressure them into sending money," the alert issued by FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) says.

"The scammers are sending e-mails threatening to release sexually explicit photos or personally compromising videos to the individual's contacts if they do not pay. While there are many variations of these online extortion attempts, they often share certain commonalties."

The FBI also reminds that fraudsters are known for adapting their scams to match current trends, with a focus on high impact events, high profile breaches, and other issues that could give them authenticity and make their targets react without second thinking their requests.

Among the various signs that should make you think twice before giving course to the scammers' demands, the agency highlights the following 'red flags:'

  • The online extortion attempt comes as an e-mail from an unknown party and, many times, will be written in broken English with grammatical errors.
  • The recipient's personal information is noted in the e-mail or letter to add a higher degree of intimidation to the scam. For example, the recipient's user name or password is provided at the beginning of the e-mail or letter.
  • The recipient is accused of visiting adult websites, cheating on a spouse, or being involved in other compromising situations.
  • The e-mail or letter includes a statement like, "I had a serious spyware and adware infect your computer," or "I have a recorded video of you" as an explanation of how the information was allegedly gathered.
  • The e-mail or letter threatens to send a video or other compromising information to family, friends, coworkers, or social network contacts if a ransom is not paid.
  • The e-mail or letter provides a short window to pay, typically 48 hours.
  • The recipient is instructed to pay the ransom in Bitcoin, a virtual currency that provides a high degree of anonymity to the transactions.

"The FBI does not condone the payment of online extortion demands as the funds will facilitate continued criminal activity, including potential organized crime activity and associated violent crimes." the IC3 PSA adds.

Victims of COVID-19 scam attempts should report them via the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at (866) 720-5721 as soon as possible, email their reports to disaster@leo.gov, or reach out to the FBI (visit ic3.govtips.fbi.gov, or call 1-800-CALL-FBI).”