Report: Leaked U.S. Marshal Service list recipients targeted by phishing scammers

Home » Report: Leaked U.S. Marshal Service list recipients targeted by phishing scammers
Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/105644709@N08/

Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/105644709@N08/

In mid-June, the U.S. Marshal Service (USMS) accidentally sent a mass email to all of the parties who had contacted them about the then-upcoming auction of nearly 30,000 BTC seized from the Silk Road. In addition to providing the bitcoin community and news outlets with a glimpse at some of the potential bidders in the auction, the leak had one other side effect: It created an opportunity for scam artists.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the scam began a few days later when a person claiming to be working on a video project about the Silk Road auction contacted people from the leaked list. Writing under the name “Linda Jackson,” the scammer sent out a seemingly innocuous message:

I work for BitFilm Production. We are currently putting together some media for a client regarding the Silk Road seized coin auction by the USMS. I am hoping you could spare five minutes to review my interview questions and see if you would be willing to participate as a source. This media will have strong syndication, and you could have the possibility of being quoted publicly (you can also be an anonymous source if you so wish).

Those who responded to the email were sent a reply email with an attachment. “Linda” claimed that the attachment was a link to a Google Doc with a list of questions, but instead was email account and password-stealing malware. As the WSJ reported, neither the USMS or BitFilm (a real company based in Germany) were aware of the scam. As BitFilm managing director Aaron Koenig told the WSJ, “I can assure you that no one from BitFilm has contacted participants in the bitcoin auction.”

It’s not known how many of those who responded to the scam email had their accounts compromised, although Australian bitcoin arbitrage company Bitcoin Reserve claims to have lost 100 BTC after co-founder Sam Lee clicked on the link. According to the WSJ: “That opened up his email to the attacker, who used it to send further emails to employees within the firm, purporting to be him and directing them to send 100 bitcoins to a specific address. Before they realized it was a scam, they’d transferred the bitcoins.”

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