Outline Emails purporting to be from a hacker named Mike claim that he has gained access to the recipient's computer and will pass on personal files to a woman who hired him unless the recipient contacts him to discuss withholding the files.
The claim that "Mike" has hacked the recipient's computer is a lie. The message is simply a ruse to trick recipients into sending money in the mistaken believe that "Mike" the hacker has access to their files.
Last week, one woman has contacted me and asked to hack your computer
in order to get copies of certain interested her files. For showing
your digital photos, text documents, e-mail messages, personal
messages from your account in Facebook, she promised to pay me 150 GBP
Yesterday I managed to hack your computer and now I have all copies of
your files and messages, in 72 hours I will send this all to my
And, perhaps the most important: if, among all those files and
messages, there is nothing that could damage your reputation or cause
any other unwanted consequences for you - just ignore this email.
Otherwise, I'm sure we can agree on to keep your personal files and
messages before I send them to my client. In order to do this,
immediately contact me: stop_mike@Safe-mail.net
Subject: Re: Notice
Hello, My name is Mike.
Last week one woman contacted me. She asked me to hack your computer
and to make the copies of the files she might be interested in.
2 days ago, via trojan horse virus, I got an access to the files in
Thus, at present, I have got the following copies of files from your computer:
- all your digital photos
- all your text documents
- all your text messages
- all your personal messages from the websites, where you have been registered
In 72 hours I will pass them to the above mentioned woman (customer).
And the most important: If you think, that if the files will be passed
to my customer and it will cause unwanted consequences, please
contact me by e-mail: email@example.com , firstname.lastname@example.org
I am confident, we could come up to the agreement, and these copies
won't be passed to my client.
Otherwise, just ignore this letter.
Submissions indicate that versions of the above emails have been widely distributed since early February, 2011. The emails, which claim to be from an individual identified only as "Mike", warn the recipient that his or her computer has been hacked. "Mike" claims that an unnamed woman hired him to hack the recipient's computer and steal personal files. He suggests that, if the recipient does not want the stolen files to be passed on to the unidentified woman, the recipient should contact him to "come up to the agreement".
However, the claims in the email are outright lies. The email represents nothing more than a transparent ruse to trick panicked recipients into handing over their money to Internet scammers. Those who fall for the ruse and contact "Mike" will be asked to send money in order to stop him from sending the personal files to his "client".
Of course, hackers can and do gain access to people's personal files through various means such as trojan horses or phishing scams. And, so called ransomware attacks have been used by criminals in the past as a means of forcing victims to pay fees or buy products. Typically, ransomware consists of a malicious program that locks a user out of his or her computer until a fee is payed or an unwanted product purchased in exchange for a password that will restore the user's access.
However, the claims in "Mike's" emails can be dismissed as false for the following reasons.
Thousands of people all around the world have received identical versions of the scam emails. All claim that an unnamed woman hired the hacker to access the recipient's files. None include any details about the recipient such as a personalised greeting or a specific reference to the supposed hacking victim's individual circumstances. If "Mike" had really gained access to the user's computer, he would certainly be able to find details specific to his target and include them in the demand email. The generic, non specific nature of the scam emails is a telling indicator that the hacking claims are false.
The scam emails make no effort to specify any individual files that the hacker claims to have accessed. If the supposed attack was genuine, the hacker would most likely include proof such as a screenshot of a stolen file in his initial demand letter.
Repeated replies to "Mike" demanding that he show proof of his supposed attack by naming stolen files or sending a screenshot of one such file have so far gone unanswered. If a hacker had really stolen your files and was intent on being paid to withhold them from his "client", then he would certainly be willing to take the very simple steps necessary to prove that he really had such files.
Thus, the emails are just a rather lame attempt by a grubby little scammer to extort money from unsuspecting Internet users. Those who do comply and contact "Mike" to make an arrangement will be paying for absolutely nothing. If you receive one of these emails, the best course of action is to simply delete it.
This scam attack is quite reminiscent of other - somewhat more sinister - scams in which the scammer claims to be an assassin hired to kill the recipient. These scam emails demand that the recipient pay a specified fee in order to avert his or her pending assassination. As in the above "Mike the hacker" versions, the claims in the hitman scam emails are lies designed to trick users into sending money to Internet criminals.