New Channels, Old Scams

In an age where the latest technology is available to the everyday consumer, it may be hard to believe people still fall for classic scamming methods. However, fraudsters that utilize scare tactics continue to be highly effective – especially in phone, mail and online scams.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) found millennials to be more at risk for online scams than seniors. At first glance, this may sound surprising given that younger generations often are more digitally aware.

But with the increasing number of people using connected technology and Internet-enabled devices, it also means that more information about you is now available to the public – consumers, businesses and fraudsters alike.

What happened?

Fraudsters are revamping this classic fear-based email scam by fusing traditional threats with a victim’s previously breached data.

According to the Prince Williams County Police Department, victims receive emails that claim their information has been “hacked.” Scammers demand payment via bitcoin with threats to reveal a victim’s unsavory online activity is the payment is not made.

And if this message wasn’t convincing enough, scammers will even include old passwords tied to the victim’s email address as added proof the message is legitimate.

The scam was first reported by a Virginia police department in July 2018. Authorities believe that scammers most likely acquired a list of email addresses from an old data breach, then targeted victims on that list by using their associated passwords.

Even though fraudsters have demanded up to $1,600 from their victims, police urge recipients of these emails to refrain from paying.

What should I do?

Phishing, email scams and website spoofing are among the most common forms of online scams. In fact, they ranked above scholarship/grant scams, as well as fake charity scams in 2017.

Use the tips below to avoid falling victim to this fear-mongering scam:

  • Pay attention to the sender’s tone. Payment demands, requests for immediate action or threats of consequences for not following through are often red flags for scam emails.
  • Never click on links or download attachments from emails with threatening language. These are often phishing links or malicious files that can cause harm to your computer.
  • Delete emails immediately if you do not recognize the sender.
  • Do not forward or reply to suspicious emails, as this may spread the scam more.
  • Report all scams to the Federal Trade Commission by visiting