So a couple I happen to know very well was out celebrating their anniversary. They had a lovely evening, a great repast and companionship, reminisced about life and a multi-decade marriage which — like any — has had its twists and turns but a path neither would have chosen differently. The mail had arrived late and was waiting for them when they got home.
One of the letters addressed to the gentleman was in a plain white envelope with his name and address typed in all caps on an adhesive label attached at a somewhat off-centered angle just below and to the left of a USA Forever stamp, itself a bit askew. There was something odd about it and not a typical piece of junk mail. Lacking a return address, the letter was postmarked out of Charlotte.
Poised to toss the letter into the scrap basket, the addressee stopped at the last moment and studied it again. Somebody — not some automated machine — has sent this, he thought, and then he began to tear it open.
It turned out to be a very strange anniversary greeting, to say the least.
“Hello ‘Jim,’” [name changed] it began, innocently enough. “I’m going to cut to the chase. My name is BlueGate50 and I know about the secret you are keeping from your wife and everyone else. More importantly, I have evidence of what you have been hiding. I won’t go into the specifics here in case your wife intercepts this, but you know what I’m talking about.
“You don’t know me personally and nobody hired me to look into you. Nor did I go out looking to burn you. It is just your bad luck that I stumbled across your misadventures while working a job around Charleston. I then put in more time than I probably should have looking into your life. Now, I am sure a successful man in his sixties such as yourself has better things to do with his time than deal with someone like me. And frankly, I am ready to forget all about you and let you get on with your life. And I am going to give you two options that will accomplish that very thing. Those two options are to either ignore this letter, or simply pay me $20,300. Let’s examine these two options in more detail.
“Option 1 is to ignore this letter. Let me tell you what will happen if you choose this path. I will take this evidence and send it to your wife. And as insurance against you intercepting it before your ‘babe’ gets it, I will also send copies to her friends, family, and to everyone on and around your street address. So, “Jim” even if you decide to come clean with your wife, it won’t protect her from the humiliation she will feel when her friends and family find out the sordid details from me.
“Option 2 is to pay me $20,300. We’ll call this my confidentiality fee. Now let me tell you what happens if you choose this path. Your secret remains your secret. You go on with your life as if none of this ever happened. Though you may want to do a better job at keeping your misdeeds secret in the future.
“At this point you may be thinking that you’ll just go to the cops. Which is why I have taken steps to ensure this letter cannot be traced back to me. So that won’t help, and it won’t stop the evidence from destroying your life. I’m not looking to break your bank. I just want to be compensated for the time I put into investigating you.
“So let’s assume you have come to the obvious conclusion that your best option is to pay the fee. You will pay me anonymously using bitcoin. If you want me to keep your secret, then send $20,300 in BITCOIN to the Receiving Bitcoin Address listed at the bottom of this letter. Payment MUST be received within 8 days of the postmarked date on this letter’s envelope. Tell no one what you will be using the bitcoin for or they may not sell it to you. The procedure to obtain bitcoin can take a day or two so do not put it off. If I don’t receive the bitcoin by the deadline, I will go ahead and release the evidence to everyone. In that case the least you could do is tell your wife so she can prepare her friends and family before they find out.”
The letter then goes into great 18-point detail about how to navigate through bitcoin and make a payment.
The gentleman shrugged it off and showed the letter to his wife.
“Here, read this,” which she did with a look of surprise and a hint of concern. “Of course,” he added, “come to think of it, blackmail is blackmail and who knows what this guy might try to do. It’s a weird feeling.”
Nothing was expected and no surprise that nothing happened, and yet here’s an example of the sophistication of modern scams which would be at the very least a little unsettling regardless of the circumstances. But scams and blackmail are known to work, and somebody out there is going to pay the $20,300…regardless of the circumstances.