Skip To Content

Sheriff’s Office warns of old scam that has resurfaced in Weld County

Posted on 04/22/2020
The Weld County Sheriff’s Office is warning the public about an old scam that has resurfaced locally in recent weeks.

Several members of the community have reported receiving an email in which a scammer threatens to post a private and embarrassing video to Facebook unless paid $2,000 worth of Bitcoin. One of the many unsettling aspects of the scam, which likely lends to its success, is the scammer notes in the subject line of the email an accurate screen name and password belonging to the intended victim.

In the body of the email, the scammer claims that they used the targeted victim’s personal information to hack into their computer to install spyware. The scammer further claims that at some point within the last several hundred days the spyware was activated, gaining access to the targeted victim’s laptop camera to record them while they surfed explicit material online.

The scammer claims to have access to the targeted victim’s Facebook account and cellphone contacts. The scammer threatens to randomly send the video to the intended victim’s friends, family and co-workers until they receive a “donation” of $2,000 worth of Bitcoin.

Weld County Crime Analyst Maggie Fitzgerald said there are numerous signs the email is a scam. Of note is the scammer’s desire to be paid in Bitcoin, which is hard to track and commonly used by criminals wanting to disguise transactions.

Scammers often obtain usernames and passwords from data breaches, whether from a bank, hospital or one of millions of online merchants, Fitzgerald said. Scammers don’t actually need access to the dark web, as personal information stolen during a data breach often is posted to the regular web.

“This scam is just as old as the world wide web itself,” Fitzgerald said. “When it comes to investigating these types of reports, we often run into jurisdictional challenges as suspects can be outside of the United States and tracing a cryptocurrency transaction can be difficult.”

Although investigating such scams often leads to dead ends, Fitzgerald said there are several ways people can protect themselves from data breaches and the scams that usually follow.

• Don’t use the same password for multiple websites.
• Especially don’t have the same username and password for email and banking/financial websites.
• Change passwords often.
• Even if you choose a password that is easy to remember, incorporate numbers and symbols, and unusual combinations of upper and lowercase letters to make it more difficult to guess.
• Use caution when it comes to transactions involving cryptocurrencies and always verify who you are dealing with to make sure the individual is a real person.

Click the link for more information about how to protect yourself from data breaches or visit the Colorado Bureau of Investigation’s Facebook page for more information about identity theft.