If you received an email threatening to expose you for cheating on your wife unless you pay thousands of dollars in bitcoins, ignore it, it's just a scam. While the scam has been going on since at least 2016, it is still going strong and the FBI is warning consumers to beware. And there is a snail mail version, as well, with people receiving real letters in the mail (yes, those old-fashioned paper things) with the same threats.
While the exact language can vary, the scammer claims to have "evidence" of your infidelity and demands payment by bitcoin to keep this information private, else it will be sent to your wife, family and friends. The scammers may even provide helpful, step-by-step instructions on how to open a bitcoin account and make the payment (perhaps they missed their true calling of running a tech website!).
In many ways, this cheating-on-your-wife blackmail scam is very similar to the porn watcher blackmail scam we reported on back in March. The scammers are just phishing thousands (maybe millions) of people, hoping the small percentage who have cheated on their wife will be scared enough to pay.
And like the porn scam, there are some obvious indicators for why this is a scam and why you shouldn't pay, even if you haven't been faithful to your spouse. Notably, there is nothing in the email or letter that demonstrates any real knowledge of your actions - no times, dates or places; no descriptions of actions that supposedly took place; and no names of others involved. Any "real" blackmailer would show you a sample of the goods so you know they're serious. [NOTE: If there is an attachment with "evidence", don't open it. Email attachments are a common way of transmitting malware.]
Even if there are some personal details in the email, such as your name or address, those alone shouldn't concern you. There have been so many data breaches over the years that even information we would normally consider to be private is widely available on the black market. Readers of our porn blackmail story have reported the scammers including the reader's password in the phishing email as "proof" they have hacked their PC (the passwords were real, but old passwords that were clearly revealed in some historical breach).
So if you get one of the emails (or letters), send it straight to the trash.
[Image credit: Phishing scam concept via BigStockPhoto]