Criminals are trying to wreck your home life as well as your bank account with a new wrinkle on a very old scam. The latest variation involves sending snail mail to people’s homes and saying: “I know about the secret you are keeping from your wife and everyone else.”
That was part of the letter a writer for the Los Angeles Times received recently in his mailbox. To end the madness, all the perpetrator asked of him was a $8,600 “confidentiality fee” in untraceable Bitcoin, the cryptocurrency du jour.
Snail mail scam: Pay up in Bitcoin or we’ll expose your extramarital affair
While this correspondence happened in L.A., there’s a good chance these letters could turn up in your ZIP code.
That’s because the personal info that the letter sender had — the recipient’s home address and name — is pretty much in the public domain for anyone to look up at this point.
Fortunately for this would-be victim, he was smart (and faithful) enough not to fall for the scam, but the fact that the crook would spend money on postage is just one indicator “that there’s definitely money to be made if the letters find their way into the right hands,” Paul Stephens, director of policy and advocacy for San Diego’s Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, told the Times.
There are a number of ways you can safeguard yourself from this scam — aside from being faithful to your significant other. Here are a few:
3 ways to protect yourself from scams
- Report them: If you know you haven’t done anything that would cause you to be blackmailed or extorted, ignore the letter, definitely don’t send any money and most importantly report the scammers to the Federal Trade Commission. File a claim at ftc.gov/complaint.
- Tell a friend: If criminals have gotten hold of your info, they may also have accessed that of those close to you. Warn your friends, family and co-workers about any scam so they can protect themselves.
- Look them up online: If you’ve gotten any suspicious mail and you’re unsure about it, do an online search for the person or company’s name and return address. If they seem legit, contact them via customer service. If they’re untraceable, it’s best to report them and throw their correspondence away.