EXCLUSIVE: Ashley Madison user refuses to pay online extortionists

A month after Toronto police warned about the family-shattering fallout from the massive Ashley Madison hack, including at least two unconfirmed suicides, a Greater Toronto Area man has come forward claiming to be the target of an online extortion attempt.

“Bob,” who didn’t want his real name used, says he’s been married for 36 years. He’s also been on Ashley Madison since its controversial launch back in 2001. Despite being a member for nearly a decade-and-a-half, he says he’s never actually had an affair through the service.

His lengthy flirtation with the infidelity website may not have been consummated in the flesh, but like millions of others, he did share blush-inducing personal information in his online profile, including his sexual kinks and proclivities. It was information that was supposed to connect him to a like-minded sexual partner. Instead, it’s connected him to cyber-criminals seeking to exploit one of the largest data breaches ever for personal gain.

Bob says he’s received two emails over the past week, each demanding around two Bitcoins. A single Bitcoin is worth around $302 Canadian dollars.

If he doesn’t pay up, his sensitive information will be mailed to his home address, and shared with his family and Facebook friends, the emails threaten.

According to one of the emails, purportedly from the Impact Group responsible for the original hack, he has four days to comply.

“Don’t think this is going to go away,” it reads. “I ALWAYS follow through with what I promise.”


In another message, the group claims that a publicly searchable website will be launched in the coming weeks, with all information gleaned from the Ashley Madison hack readily available for the spurned or simply curious.

But if Bob pays, “it will be as if you never had an account in the first place.”

Bob admits he was rattled by the threats, but he remains unbowed: He refuses to pay two Bitcoins to two-bit crooks.

“When you first read the (emails) you get this real sense of dread,” he explained. “Someone has something that they can hold over you forever. It’s nothing that’s going to go away unless these people are caught. They are anonymous. They know you, you don’t know them.”

“These people are criminals,” he adds. “They are no better than a guy who takes a gun and goes into a bank and threatens people to get money.”

Bob says he’s willing to risk being outed if it helps capture the culprits. He also says that, unlike many married men, he has a fairly open relationship with his wife.

“She knows that I play around like this,” he insists. “That I talk to girls online…it’s not going to cause a tremendous amount of hardship if she finds out.”

That’s likely not the case for many of the 37 million people whose data was compromised.

“Marriages and careers and lives will be thrown by the wayside,” he predicts. “They will lose everything.”

He also feels he can do his part to help lure the suspects into the hands of police.

“I’m going to take that gamble because if they send me something, it’s traceable. Everything they do, every time they rear their heads, that’s another opportunity to nail down who they are.”

“I’m willing to do this because these people are criminals…these are people who are destroying lives.”

Bob also believes there’s strength in numbers. The tens of millions of people who used Ashley Madison may have been vilified in the press for their philandering ways, but he feels if they stick together and take a stand, they can halt what looks to be the escalating reality of online extortion.

“If they want to go against 37 million people, go ahead,” he said, almost taunting his invisible tormentors.

“Try to take on 37 million people.”

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