Ever seen a “black money cleaning” scam before? Here’s your chance.

From: fmg <financialmangemnt@gmail.com>
Subject: TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN, for your attention
Reply-to: financialmangemnt@gmail.com

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Sent Johnson

Update on the next podcast.

So today I did the first interview for our next podcast, with Steve Baker, regional director of the FTC.  It’s a very interesting listen.  We have a few more interviews to do, then I’ll be putting the podcast together.  Right now we have 3 other people lined up, all business owners, and all involved in the dating industry.  But the part I’m most looking forward to – playing “gone phishing” again 😉

It’s tax season. Here’s what a tax refund scam looks like.

The email had an attachment that I’m not opening as it’ll contain a virus or be a phishing link.  Be aware of these kinds of scams this time of year

After the last annual calculations of your fiscal activity , we determined that you
are aligible to receive a tax refund of 323.56 GPB.
Please submit the tax refund request and allow us 10-14 days in order to process it.

To access your tax refund, please follow the steps bellow:

– Download the Tax Refund attached to this email
– Open it in a browser
– Follow the instructions on your screen

NOTE: A refund can be delayed a variety of reasons , for exemple submitting invalid
records or applying after deadline.

Revenue and Tax Administrator

HM Revenue & Customs
Tax Credit Office
Kingshill Avenue
Middlesex, UB48BY
United Kingdom

Our 5000th blackmail form is in.

Hard to believe that in less than 3 years, we’ve seen such a response the issue of blackmail scams, also known as sextortion.  When we first started with the forms, we would have 2 or 3 a day, now the numbers are ten times that.  I was recently asked by the media if it was a growing problem, and the truth is we don’t know.  Yes, we’re getting many more forms these days, but we have to ask ourselves how much of that is the growth of the scam and how much is the growth of people being able to find us.  I think the truth is somewhere in the middle.  We’re doing all we can to get the word out about these scams.  Anyone out there willing to work with us on raising awareness, let me know.

The media is a funny thing.

You know what’s weird?  Some of the best articles we’ve been a part of were ones with little or no work beforehand.  This week’s one was literally a call out of the blue, followed by about 20 minutes of my explaining how the scams work before the article appeared online less than 24 hours later.  It turned out to be a very good article.  One of the best I’ve seen lately in fact.  Other times we’ve dealt with the companies for months, had to fill in all sorts of forms beforehand and absolutely hated the results.  You really never know what you’re going to get.  It seems to be down to the vision of a single person a lot of the time.  Of course their vision and our vision sometimes don’t match.  And they sometimes don’t match at all.

‘Sextortion’ Scams on the Rise in Europe

Here’s an article from today on newsweek.com that I was interviewed for just yesterday.


Experts and police are warning that so-called “sextortion” scams, whereby a scammer will dupe a victim into stripping and performing sex acts online before demanding a sum of money or threatening to release the footage, are increasing across Europe.

The latest warning comes from the Austrian police, who recently announced an increase in the number of victims, mostly young men, filing complaints.

The scams usually involve a victim being contacted on Facebook by an unknown, attractive woman, who will suggest a video chat. In most cases the woman is naked and persuades the man to undress and perform a sex act. The victim is then told to pay a sum of money or risk having the footage distributed online.

“The reason for the increase in this type of crime is probably due to the rapid increase in use of the internet; more internet portals, apps, partner and dating services and web services which are being used,” explains Mario Hejl, of the Austrian Criminal Intelligence Service.

While Hejl explains that exact numbers for this type of crime are not currently available because the crime is not filtered separately in Austrian criminal statistics, it is assumed by the police that the crimes in Austria are now in the “high double-digit range” and that the numbers continue to grow each year.

A few hundred euros is typically demanded from victims, and most of the criminals behind the scams operate from outside Austria. “In a number of cases, a referral of around €200-€300, mainly via Western Union, is required to recipients in North African countries,” Hejl says.

Earlier this month a 20-year-old man from Austria was told to pay €3,000 or risk an intimate video going public. He refused, and alerted the police.

According to Austrian intelligence, this form of cybercrime is on the rise across Europe, a phenomena Wayne May, founder of the UK website and support group Scam Survivors which aims to track down scammers as well as offering advice to victims, is familiar with.

May says that the number of people in the UK contacting his website has “exploded” with around 5,000 cases being handled in total in the past three years. Pages on the website designed to offer advice and support to victims have been viewed 1.8m times in the last three years, and the number of those filling out the website’s online forms asking for help have risen from three people filling out the form per day three years ago, to 25-30 filling it out per day this year.

May is unsure whether this increase is because sextortion scams are on the increase, or whether his website has become easier to find as its profile grows. But he says the impact on the victim of these crimes can be catastrophic. “We usually have a few cases per week where a victim will tell us they want to kill themselves after becoming a target of this sort of online crime”, he says. In 2013, a Scottish teenager, Daniel Perry, took his life by jumping off the Forth Road Bridge, after a Skype conversation he had with someone he believed to be a teenage girl, later turned out to be a scam.

In May’s experience, usually a scammer will have obtained illegal footage of a woman undressing, which will be presented to boys in their late teens, making them believe the encounter is genuine, and encouraging them to strip and masturbate, before an online message will demand a sum of money. The demands can be intimidating, “The scammer will say: ‘I’m going to ruin your life, I’m going to tell your whole family’”, says May.

Typically, these sums of money can range from anything from £50 to £5,000, although May says he has seen far higher sums demanded by gangs, particularly from the Ivory Coast. He also says that most of the scammers are mainly part of criminal gangs operating from the Philippines or Morocco and target around 30-40 people per day.

Another version of the scam that May says is growing in popularity involves scammers pretending to be modelling agencies, who target young teenage girls. The girls are told to partake in an audition via Skype, to prove they are comfortable changing in and out of outfits. The scammer will then either demand more videos, or a sum of money.

Sextortion crimes form part of a wider trend of cyber crime involving ransoms which law enforcement agencies like Europol are increasingly concerned about. These well-documented crimes involve victims unwittingly downloading ‘ransomware’, which acts as a virus to encrypt a person’s data, effectively blocking them from being able to access any of their files and photos. The hacker then offers a secret code to un-encrypt the data in exchange for money.

Brian Honan, an expert in the field of information security and special advisor on internet security to Europol, says that sextortion crimes tend to be carried out by a combination of amateur individuals sometimes known to the victim, or more sophisticated gangs. He has even come across cases where criminals will hack into a person’s computer in order to remotely control their webcam and taking pictures of people in a state of undress in their bedroom, before threatening to release the photographs online. This is usually carried out by amateur individuals who may already know their victim in some capacity.

Security expert Professor Alan Woodward explains that just a few years ago, online ransoms were very simple. “Rudimentary messages purporting to be from a law enforcement agency would appear on screen informing someone that they had committed some terrible crime,” he says. “Then it got more sophisticated as scammers detected where a person was, so that the scam appeared even more believeable. Now more and more people are falling for it.”

“All sorts of online extortion is going on,” he continues. “More and more people are building up relations online with people who they think they know. Sometimes these can be very intense relationships, but then they get blackmailed. We all trust people by default.”

Experts also warn that the problem is notoriously underreported because it’s a sex crime, and victims often pay the money to make the problem disappear. Increasingly criminals are making use of virtual currency like Bitcoin, Dark Wallet or Dark Coin, which act as online cash and are practically untraceable to the authorities.

“Victims think they can make the problem go away,” says Woodward. “But the problem with extortionists is that they don’t go away. It’s like a game of whack-a-mole.”

Yes, we know….

Yes, they recorded your video.  That’s how the scam works.

Yes, they threatened to send it to everyone.  Again, it’s how the scam works.

Yes, we have seen cases like this before.  Thousands of them in fact.  It’s very rare someone is able to tell us something new the scammer did.

Yes, they showed you a list of your friends and family from your Facebook profile.  That’s part and parcel of the scam.

Yes, they threatened to post it if you blocked them.

Yes, we get that you’re afraid to block them just in case.  It’s still essential you do it.

Yes, we’ve seen cases like yours thousands of times before.  Believe me, we know exactly how this scam works.

Yes you can get the video removed if they do post it.  In fact, Youtube usually removes them in less than 5 minutes when reported.

Yes, our steps really do work in over 99.95% of the cases we’ve dealt with.

Yes, you REALLY do have to deactivate Facebook for at least 2 weeks.

Yes, REALLY!  Keep it closed.

Yes, it is essential you don’t “take a peep” in case the scammer has posted anything.  We wouldn’t say it otherwise

Yes, they may try to contact you for a short while.  Ignore them.  They’ll go away.

Yes, paying them is a bad idea.  They’ll just come back demanding more.

Yes, technically they could.  However they don’t.  That’s a cover all answer for the “what if” questions we get.

Yes, they will delete the video.  It’s too risky to keep a hold of it.

Yes, you can contact the police about it.  In fact, we’d always recommend you do.

Does that cover it?




See if you can spot the logic fail with how this scam works.

“I have no money and need a loan.”

“I can give you a loan.  How much do you need?”

“How about a thousand dollars.”

“Sure.  Now, before you can get this loan you need to give us 87 dollars in fees.  What do you mean you don’t have the money for the fees?  Can’t you get a loan for it or something?”

Loan scams always ask for up front fees.  That’s not how a real loan works.  They loan you the cash and then you pay any fees as part of the paying back process.  If you’re asked for fees up front then it’s an advance fee scam.