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Someone spoofed the headers on an email to a redirecting address I own today and it's laughably written, but raised a question for me.

The message claims to have kompromat on me that absolutely does not exist. Clearly it is sent to a large number of email addresses in the hopes that it reaches someone gullible with a guilty conscience that decides to pay. Whether it works or not is questionable (with a sufficiently large email list, I imagine it would). But it makes me wonder about the legality of this kind of scam.

If a person A threatens to blackmail person B with kompromat they don't actually have, but person B is gullible enough to believe it, is it still illegal blackmail?

I will add, per advice in the comments, that I am in the United States.

I will further add, per advice in the comments, that I am in Florida.

Since this is, of course, virtually untraceable and not worth the effort to prosecute anyway, I should say I am asking this question purely out of intellectual curiosity.

Hello,

As you may have noticed, I sent this email from your email account (if you didn't see, check the from email id). In other words, I have fullccess to your email account.

I infected you with a malware a few months back when you visited an adult site, and since then, I have been observing your actions.

The malware gave me full access and control over your system, meaning, I can see everything on your screen, turn on your camera or microphon and you won't even notice about it.

I also have access to all your contacts.

Why your antivirus did not detect malware? It's simple. My malware updates its signature every 10 minutes, and there is nothing your antivirus can do about it.

I made a video showing both you (through your webcam) and the video you were watching (on the screen) while satisfying yourself. With one click, I can send this video to all your contacts (email, social network, and messengers you use).

You can prevent me from doing this. To stop me, transfer $950 to my bitcoin address. If you do not know how to do this, Google - "Buy Bitcoin".

My bitcoin address (BTC Wallet) is 1LfiwESci8U5iRNn2XwfrcjtVn5CLNZ7LQ

After receiving the payment, I will delete the video, and you will never hear from me again. You have 48 hours to pay. Since I already have access to your system I now know that you have read this email, so your countdown has begun.

Filing a complaint will not do any good because this email cannot be tracked. I have not made any mistakes.

If I find that you have shared this message with someone else, I will immediately send the video to all of your contacts.

Take care

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    I suspect in most cases it is, but every country / jurisdiction has its own laws. To get a clear answer with references, you'll need to specify a jurisdiction. – Nate Eldredge May 7 at 14:02
  • In most places this is probably illegal, however these crimes (of just sending the mail) are rarely prosecuted. I get the same email you did (or various variations there-of) on a weekly basis. Nobody has fallen for that particular wallet yet – Ron Beyer May 7 at 15:22
  • These “fishing” (not “phishing”) scams are laughably written deliberately to screen out those who are savvy enough not to be caught at the first pass. – Dale M May 7 at 21:34
  • @NateEldredge And the intention behind say German and French law may be very, very similar, but it would depend on the exact wording. It would be easy for a lawmaker to produce loopholes unintentionally. – gnasher729 May 7 at 22:32
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    @RonBeyer: These scams tend to be at least somewhat personalized (using the recipient's name, email domain, etc) so one would expect that they also use a unique address for each email sent. This has the benefit that if someone does fall for it and send money, they'll know exactly who the gullible person was, and can target them for future scams. The address shown in the question was probably not given to anyone except OP, so the fact that it has no activity probably just demonstrates that OP didn't fall for it. – Nate Eldredge May 7 at 22:36
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According to Blackmail Overview :: Justia (emphasis mine):

A blackmailer typically has information that is damaging to the victim, and uses threats to reveal that information in order to coerce the victim. Blackmail is considered a crime regardless of whether the information is true or false. The central element of the crime is the blackmailer’s intent to obtain money, property, or services from the victim with threats of revealing the information.

So it's still a crime, at least in the US.

But the enforcement problems are tracing the original emailer, which, due to (I assume) multiple email relay IPs, address spoofing, etc, and the big issue of identifying the actual individual who pressed the metaphorical "send" key on the bulk email script, the jurisdiction of that person, etc.

As Ron pointed out, BitcoinWhosWho shows no one has fallen for it, even though millions of these emails get sent every day, gauging from the number that I get myself.

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    I think the problem with bitcoin blackmail is that anyone stupid enough to fall it is not clever enough to manage to actually buy and transfer bitcoin. That's why so many scammers ask for Apple gift cards. – gnasher729 May 7 at 22:28
  • Bitcoin is not so easy to use without using a traditional service like Coinbase; some of the scam emails I have gotten have extensive instructions on how to buy and send, which are funny to read. – BlueDogRanch May 8 at 0:14

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