Moms Make Money is being BLACKMAILED
Internet security, cyber crime, hacking, child pornography, viruses and malware, identify theft, cyber bullying, fraud, scamming, child-safe browsing, spamming and more. Really important issues to everyone in society who uses a computer for at work or at home. So who Polices in the Internet? Who is there for us when things go wrong?
On 6th July, I received an email to my domain email address here at Moms Make Money. It started off politely “Hello Deby !” and then I realised something was very wrong. It was short, to the point and threatened that certain actions would be carried out unless I paid money into an online account.
I won’t go into the details here because the email contained personal information. But the ‘gentleman’ writing, let’s call him Vince has given me 3 days to comply or says he will carry out his threats.
He doesn’t make any threats of personal attack or violence, more of a cyber/internet nature. Again I prefer not to be specific. I suspect the blackmailer is not from my country as English is either not his first language or he did really badly in school!
I am not a hysterical person or prone to panic and over-reaction (at least I don’t think so). I researched online, and chatted on several forums, carried out plagarism checks to see if the text of the email appeared anywhere online. All of this came up negative, no one else has received this same email. It seems this is not a random phishing email but is indeed an email addressed to me personally and making threats to me and Moms Make Money.
So what can be done. Let’s look at the parties involved:
The Police – I live on a little island in the Caribbean with a small and unsophisticated police force. They certainly don’t have a cyber crime division. Despite the fact that blackmail is a crime, I have been told that as my personal safety is not being threatened by anyone on the island, this internet matter is outside of their jurisdiction. My business is being threatened, but again my business is not a physical one, its a website, therefore the business is also outside of their jurisdiction.
The Internet Service Provider (ISP) – I have tracked down the IP address of the email sender and found their ISP. I called the Customer Service Centre and asked for help, however they are only able to help their own customers and as I am not a customer of this ISP and don’t have an account with them, they could not help me. Really? But they could help Vince send his blackmail email because he is one of their customers.
The Email Provider – the blackmailer sent the email from an Outlook.com account. So I chatted with a customer service agent for Outlook on live chat. I explained the problem and was told to just delete the email. When I said I was not satisfied with this answer and asked to speak to a supervisor, the agent repeated the instruction to just delete the email and then terminated the chat! I had thought that Microsoft would be more concerned that their Outlook was being used to threaten someone and carry out a crime. Clearly not, delete it and pretend it didn’t happen.
The Online Account – there is no phone number provided only a customer support form to complete. Of course they wanted me to input the account details or login to use the support form which I could not do as I am not the customer, I am the one being threatened by their customer. I did find a support email address and sent in the details of the threatening email from their customer, but only got a generic reply back thanking me for my ‘feedback’. This is a no-reply email address.
So it looks like I am on my own. I will not be making any payment. I will not be replying to Vince and his polite email. I’ve done what I can to block him access to my site and mitigate some of the risks for what he threatens.
And now I sit with my fingers crossed that this is all going to turn out OK. This could be the last you see of Moms Make Money …
I hope to be here next week, I’ve got some interesting posts ready to go.
I had considered whether this was a good idea to post these details, but I’ve decided that the mission statement for MMM was to help other small bloggers and give them advice and information. I wouldn’t be doing my job here if I only posted about the good stuff and kept quiet about the bad.
What can you do to protect yourself and your site online:
- Back up your site
- Use strong passwords and don’t use the same passwords for different sites
- Be careful what personal information you post online, in social media, on your site and in forums
- Think twice before posting photos of your children online or even their names
- Set aside a separate email account for personal use only, one for your blog and another for more public purposes
- Keep up to date on security issues
- Use a good virus checker and keep it up to date
- Use a service like Statcounter to keep an eye on visitors and activity on your site
- Cross your fingers that these things never happen to you.
[Update 9th July, I received another email overnight reminding me I have 24hrs left to comply.]
Authored by: Deby at Moms Make Money
Police photo credit: Thomas Hawk via photopin cc
July 7, 2013 @ 11:31 am
Wow, thanks for the heads up. Unbelievable! Some people have way too much time on their hands. Sorry you have to go through this. I’m sure it is very frustrating.
Really hoping you will still be here next week!
Deby at Moms Make Money
July 7, 2013 @ 11:54 am
I’m hoping that it’s an idle threat from a nutter. Time will tell. If you aren’t already, get on the mailing list so even if there is a problem with the site, I can get back up and running and still keep in touch.
July 7, 2013 @ 8:32 pm
Sounds like someone on a fishing expedition. Since you’re not biting he’ll probably swim away.
Deby at Moms Make Money
July 7, 2013 @ 9:32 pm
I certainly hope so.
July 7, 2013 @ 12:09 pm
Wow this is really freaky. I’m definitely going to tighten up security. Hope all turns out well for you.
July 7, 2013 @ 8:31 pm
I got emails from someone in ‘Europe’ who said she was sending her niece to my country and she wanted to prepay for her niece to use the yoga service I advertised on my website. ‘Aunt Sheila’ asked how much it would cost for the niece to come and get private lessons. After a few emails back and forth I was then asked if auntie could send me a cheque for more than the cost of my service, to cash the cheque, take a big chunk of it to her niece’s ‘travel agent’ in my city, then keep the balance including a big bonus for me. Sheila also told me she was disabled and poor. I emailed Sheila that if she contacted me again I would forward the emails to the police here who fortunately do have an internet crime division. Never heard from Sheila again.
July 9, 2013 @ 5:40 pm
Haha, I must get the same email every month or so, but it’s for Piano lessons, which advertise on Craigslist. You’d think these guys would come up with a different script.
July 7, 2013 @ 8:37 pm
thanks for sharing this info,it is unbelievable!!
Bethany Wright Dearden
July 8, 2013 @ 12:27 am
Holy crap, I can’t believe this! I also can’t believe that none of those avenues proved helpful. This is horrible, my fingers are crossed for you too.
July 8, 2013 @ 1:59 am
I hope this turns out to be nothing but threats. Thanks so much for the tips on security.
I Gotta Try That
July 8, 2013 @ 3:05 pm
I appreciate the tips and you sharing this with my readers!
Deby at Moms Make Money
July 8, 2013 @ 4:04 pm
It’s important as more and more of our personal lives are shared online that we all get a reminder every now and then to be cautious about what we share, and how to keep ourselves and our sites secure from these people who have nothing better to do than cause havoc.
Helen @ Blue Eyed Beauty Blog
July 8, 2013 @ 7:20 pm
wow that’s just terrible! I do hope that they don’t do anything. I can imagine the most they could do is bad mouth you on your site or other sites. I mean you even have the blog domain and everything. Just make sure you reset your password for you blog login? Again, I think it’s terrible that people do things like that. I hope ‘he’ won’t get away with it!
Blue Eyed Beauty Blog
July 8, 2013 @ 10:23 pm
oh my! how scary!!! I’m curious how photos of kids create a danger to this? can you elaborate a bit on this? I’m on the fence about putting kids pictures online & using their names, so if you could share some more info about htat I would be grateful!!!
Deby at Moms Make Money
July 8, 2013 @ 10:38 pm
Thankfully in my case, nothing to do with children, I don’t have any. But I did read a terrible story this week about a stalker who put up a fake Facebook account pretending to be a blogger and sharing photos of her children and personal details of them online, and generally being really creepy. Including chatting to her real Facebook friends pretending to be her etc. If I had kids and someone did something like this it would freak me out. Imagine if someone online could find out the names of your children, what they looked like, where they went to school, what their weekly schedule was etc. There are a lot of crazy people out there and if someone sent an email showing they knew personal stuff about you/them and started to threaten you/blackmail you – I think this could be a really scary situation. I don’t mean to worry anyone, just remind people to be cautious about sharing personal info into a public place.
July 9, 2013 @ 2:02 pm
How scary! In your shoes, however, I doubt I would have written a blog posting about all the avenues I’d pursued…especially one that included the fact that no one is able to help you or offer advice. I think the best defence would have been what Liz did. Send a reply email stating that the police have been forwarded the offending email along with an IP address, and any further action will be met with legal recourse. Truth or not, it would probably dissuade any further emails.
I do appreciate the tips, of course. I am one who often puts my kid’s pics online…
I’m sincerely hoping this is resolved favourably for you.
Deby at Moms Make Money
July 9, 2013 @ 2:13 pm
Yes I did think long and hard. But I decided it was important to point out that when things go wrong in the virtual world of the internet, you can’t expect any real world help. I’ve taken my virtual world precautions and won’t give in to this kind of behaviour, or shrink and hide. Plus, I’ve not shared everything in the post. I’m working on it…
July 9, 2013 @ 2:24 pm
I can definitely appreciate all of that. I’m glad you have a few other proverbial cards up your sleeve. Will you let us know of the outcome? I feel so invested now 🙂
July 10, 2013 @ 10:05 am
How awful! I am so sorry you have to deal with this. Thank you for sharing your story as a warning for us. I pray that nothing comes of it!
July 10, 2013 @ 10:45 am
Oh my goodness! I’m so sorry! I wish I had some great advise or something for you… Let us know what happens.
July 10, 2013 @ 8:26 pm
Oh my, thank you for these tips. I hope nothing comes of it.
Miranda @ Someday Crafts
July 10, 2013 @ 10:50 pm
How scary! I hope it’s just an empty threat. Thanks for sharing at Whatever Goes Wednesday!
July 11, 2013 @ 8:02 pm
Wow. That would be really frustrating and scary. I’m sorry you are having to go through this. Is it safe to assume they were all talk and no bite, as they gave you 24 hours on the 9th, and it’s now the 11th? More than likely, they’ve moved on to someone else. Or even more likely, they are on to SEVERAL someone elses. Who knows how much money they’ve already extorted? What a shame that they can’t put their talents to use in a way that helps others instead. Thank you for sharing your story. I will definitely take it to heart and follow your precautions. Best of luck. Oh, and I found you over at Posed Perfection All Things Thursday. So glad you shared!
Deby at Moms Make Money
July 12, 2013 @ 11:45 am
Yes Debbie, so far so good. My security measures and persistence with the parties concerned I hope have protected the site, along with some measures of my own I am tracking. Nothing bad has happened so far, but I’m not dropping my guard just yet. Its crazy that people have nothing better to do with their time than try this kind of disturbing behaviour. It’s been a very stressful time.
July 11, 2013 @ 8:24 pm
I just found my way to this post – HOLY COW!! I’m so sorry you’re stuck dealing with this. Hopefully, this jackalope will prove to be bluffing. Paying for a safe/happy ending to this, for you!
July 13, 2013 @ 7:51 am
It cant happen!!!! This is my absolutely favorite blog!!!
I love your sewing blog to… but this one- I am checking every day…you inspire me to open my own blog ( I do clothes for dolls and some -but less-for my 4 years old sweetheart…)
I just start to learn and you are great teacher…
July 13, 2013 @ 3:43 pm
What the devil? And for NO ONE to give assistant is ridiculous! Smh
July 14, 2013 @ 12:06 am
so, your site’s up on the 14th, so hopefully everything is OK?
Deby at Moms Make Money
July 14, 2013 @ 7:32 am
Yes Cori, everything is OK so far. I’ll be updating soon, but I’m still taking precautions…
July 14, 2013 @ 8:51 am
The WWW is a whole new Wild West! It’s very difficult if not impossible to track down an internet criminal let alone prosecute them. My husband who is an IT security professional says once you put any piece of information out there it is impossible to retrieve and we are a few steps behind the scammers who on both large and small scales are constantly working at their craft…
July 18, 2013 @ 1:14 am
OMG! I’m going to change my passwords.. now!
I hope this will never happens to me, tx for sharing, Deby
July 18, 2013 @ 11:38 pm
My husband and I run Honeycomb Design Studio and we do maintenance and basic security on the sites we design and for our tech clients. I am sure there is a way that you can block his IP from even seeing your site. You have done a good job with the basic security options, but there are even more things you can do to prevent this obscure event and others from occurring. Please let me know if we can help in any way. Blessings Honey