Online Extortion Scheme: Updated Alert

by Debra N. Diener J.D. CIPP G

computer w lock

Over the summer, I wrote about the phony emails being sent out by thieves to get money and personal and financial information.  Unfortunately, not only are these scams increasing, they’re proving very profitable.

Nicole Perlroth recenty wrote an article in the New York Times about the increasingly sophisticated email messages the thieves are now using (“For PC Virus Victims, Pay or Else”; United-States.html).  It’s the same theme but now is being tailored to people based on their Internet addresses.  In her article, Ms. Perlroth reports that:

  • the messages still appear to be coming from the FBI or other domestic and/or international law enforcement agencies;
  • the messages still say that the computer owner has lost control of her computer due to visiting illegal websites; and
  • the messages still say that the only way the owner can regain control is by paying a huge fine.

The person fears the worse and pays the fine — forking over the dollars and sensitive personal information.  The thieves are, as Ms. Perlroth wrote, making more than $5 million a year.

Her article contains additional very helpful tips about securing your computer.  We all hope that we haven’t inadvertently visited a “bad site” but we also don’t know who might have captured our computer and sent us to one of those sites.  Read her article to help make your computer more secure — and that will help you keep tighter control over your personal and private information.


Ms. Diener is now an independent consultant on privacy, identity management, information protection and risk management. She served in senior managerial, legal, policy and legislative positions in all three branches of the Federal government. In addition to her privacy expertise, Ms. Diener played a lead role on such important domestic and international issues as criminal justice/law enforcement and financial services. She speaks frequently at industry and governmental conferences and meetings.