Cyber scammers threaten 89-year-old via e-mail, demand payment in bitcoin

Cybercriminals are using threatening language in a bid to extort bitcoin payments.
Cybercriminals are using threatening language in a bid to extort bitcoin payments.
Image: 123RF/dedmityay

An 89-year-old woman has received a threatening e-mail from a cybercrime syndicate claiming it knows her whereabouts and "can cause chaos" if she does not pay them the equivalent of $700 (R11,667) in bitcoin.

Her daughter said she is afraid that someone is coming to kill her.

“Fortunately she has no idea what bitcoin even is or she'd probably sell her house to pay them,” said the daughter, who is not being named to protect the identity of the victim.

Part of the e-mail reads, “We have been following you for a long time. We already know all your personal data, what you do on the internet, your actions, habits, and we know the full address of your stay.

“We are sending this to alert you! Our group will come to your home and cause chaos.

“During the next 7 days with a time unknown to you, we will act on one of these days! If you do not want this to happen, you must pay the ransom.

“This is 700 US Dollars in bitcoin. Just send money and nothing will happen. You will live on and forget about this incident.”

The e-mail further threatens that if she reports them to authorities, she will be met with greater harm.

Toby Shapshak, Stuff magazine’s publisher and editor-in-chief, offers this advice to anyone receiving these e-mails: “The prudent thing to do is change your passwords, double encrypt and update your software and apps every chance you get.

“Also, create good passwords, people tend to use easy passwords because they want to remember them, but it is better to get one a person would not guess.”

He recommends that people ensure “you don’t have anything of value [on your digital devices] that could be compromised”.

The Bitcoin.com website warns that the number of e-mail scams has been growing in 2020 and that authorities in several countries have warned of new blackmail tactics used in threatening e-mail scams asking for bitcoin.

The threats include infecting your family with Covid-19, a sextortion e-mail scam in which they threaten to release steamy videos of the victim online, and placing ransomware on your computer network.

The Life Healthcare group, Nedbank and Tracker are some of the SA companies that recently reported attempted data breaches. The details of the cyber attacks have not been disclosed publicly. Cyber security expert Prof Basie von Solms said earlier this year that companies should ensure they have a proper backup system, as this would render would-be hackers powerless.


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