Mendota Heights hit by new ‘secret’-spilling scam


courtesy of Mendota Heights Police Department • A scheme targeting mostly men has reached Mendota Heights, according to police. Be on the look out for letters like this in your mailbox, stating someone will spill your “secret” if you don’t pay them in bitcoin. Such letters can be ignored — they’re a scam.

Over the past few weeks, residents of Mendota Heights have been getting suspicious messages in the mail or by email. Police Chief Kelly McCarthy said this scam, while new to the city, is a pretty well-established one across the county.

“The email seems to target both men and women equally,” she said, while the hard copy seems to be targeting mostly men.

With this scam, people receive a letter or email claiming someone knows their secret — in many instances, it’s that a male recipient has cheated on his wife. In order to keep it a secret, the scammer requests a “confidentially fee” to be paid in bitcoin, a type of digital currency.

McCarthy said the scam is more personal than others she’s seen, especially the email version. 

“It kind of indicates that ‘we know you looked at porn,’ where you have the hard copy [letter], ‘we know you’re cheating on your wife,’” McCarthy said. “If you’ve never cheated on your wife you’re like, ‘Clearly this is a scam.’ But it seems you can cast a much wider net if you just tell people you know they looked at porn [online].”

McCarthy said people should understand such messages are scams and blackmail, and there is no need to reply to them.

She said if one receives the email version of the scam they should just delete it without clicking on any links. If you get the scam letter in the mail, simply toss it.

People can notify the police department so police can track the number of people being sent the suspect messages, but as long as no money is exchanged, there is no crime.

The best way to tell if something is a scam, said McCarthy, is to Google it.

“Pick a few key phrases, or how would you tell your friends what’s going on, and just enter that into Google and you’ll see you’re not alone,” she said.

 

— Hannah Burlingame

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