As an administrator for the Bitcoin.com Facebook page, I see all the incoming mail sent to us and notifications through the page’s application. We have just started building this new page, and our number of followers has increased quite a bit. Our Facebook page is designed to highlight Bitcoin.com and its variety of sections, like news, our forum, and educational resources. The purpose of Bitcoin.com is to show the world how amazing the Bitcoin protocol is by giving examples of its features through literature and current events. This past week, through our Facebook page, we received some odd messages and commentary. As a news and educational publication, we’d like to address these messages.
Last week, I received a notification from a random person who did not follow our page. The message read: “Do you have any contact info? I’ve been receiving extortion emails to deposit into bitcoin accounts, and I think it should be addressed.” Now, this kind of message caught me by surprise. Typically, we get frequently asked questions on the various aspects of bitcoin — mostly in regards to buying the currency. Interested in what he had to say, I started some dialogue with the man, saying, “Who are they coming from and why have you been receiving them?” Messages seemed to lag a little, but I waited and finally he replied:
“Some random people via my gmail account. I had an account compromised on Ashley Madison recently (please don’t judge me) and now they are demanding 10 bitcoins within 24 hours.”
Suddenly, I had a recollection of the story about how Ashley Madison members had their personal information stolen, and were being extorted. I felt pretty bad for the guy, as I’m sure he was feeling responsible for his decisions — especially after writing “please don’t judge me.” So I continued speaking with the individual and asked him, “So they are blackmailing you how? Are they threatening to tell people about your account?” He didn’t respond to the question, but sent a screenshot of the email.
The email was identical to all the other various reports of the same extortion situations, minus the bitcoin addresses and the amount to be sent. I’ve seen blackmail letters online through many media outlets varying from 1 bitcoin to 10+, and all of them say the amount increase after the first 24 hours.
The first thing that comes to my mind is how horrible it is that bitcoin is conflated with these crimes, as if it’s the digital currency’s fault. However, acts like these taint the cryptocurrency’s image due to the mainstream media’s portrayal of these events.
I asked him again, this time a little differently, “Do you use Bitcoin? Or do you think it’s solely connected to your Ashley Madison account.?” He replied, “I do not use bitcoin. I didn’t even know what bitcoin was until about 12 hours ago.” Again, I felt pretty bad that the first time this man heard about bitcoin was through an act of extortion. I told him, “Ok. I’m sorry this has happened to you. Its unfortunate they have used bitcoin as a means to extort you. This story has been in the press, and people know about it.” I left him a link to where he could see that the media and authorities were well aware of these cases. Then he said something that showed how new he was to Bitcoin: “I guess my question is… Why don’t you suspend these bitcoin accounts?” So I told him that no one controls the Bitcoin network, it’s not a company, and those accounts could not be suspended.
Having realized that he wasn’t informed about the currency, I sent him an educational video and thought to myself: “He thinks that we are ‘Bitcoin’!” So I explained to him that we were just a group of passionate crypto-lovers that spread bitcoin news and information and this Facebook page was not at all Bitcoin’. Later in the evening, this revelation of thought came back to me; some people may think that Bitcoin.com is the official representative or “owner” of Bitcoin. It occurred to me when we received another message — this time directly on our timeline — from someone who was pretty upset:
“Bitcoin did you know these assholes are using your site to embezzle money from people that might be Ashley Madison. I am receiving these emails about one every 4 hours from these mother fu**ers. This is a good way to get sued and even arrested, embezzlement is against the LAW, God Damn it.”
At Bitcoin.com, we are very sorry that these people have to go through this kind of extortion. Blackmail is indeed a hurtful crime. We don’t endorse these activities, and hope actions like these cease in the future, but that’s beyond our control. What we can do is offer to teach people about Bitcoin and its various positive aspects.
Bitcoin is a currency that gives individuals sovereign power behind their money, rather than placing them at the mercy of centralized entities. It is the only form of currency that is open source, decentralized and truly peer-to-peer. This means that there is no single person in charge of the protocol, it’s not a company or organization. Cash and credit cards get stolen all the time. If you were mugged on the street, you don’t get cash back, and the only reason credit cards give it back online is because they charge you for it already. When your credit cards are stolen the thieves, also get your identification and Bitcoin is a remarkable cryptographic network achievement and has better offerings than cash or credit cards. It’s not “Crime Proof”; I’m not sure there’s a money system out there that is. With this said, we think it’s awful that people are being extorted, but we are not Bitcoin, nor do we control it.
We like to promote Bitcoin and its wonderful uses with our visuals and written media — and that’s what we are here for. Bitcoin.com is a community owned and driven by passionate people who love the digital currency. We would like to invite everyone to our page to learn about the virtual money and its latest news. Our forums are for digital currency fans both newbies and veterans who wish to converse in an uncensored environment. Lastly, if you are already a fan of our site thanks again for stopping by!
What do you think about these latest blackmail attempts? Let us know in the comments below!
Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Pixbay and Redmemes