At least two clients of the Ashley Madison adultery website may have committed suicide and others have become the victims of extortion after hackers published their details online, Canadian police said on Monday.
Avid Life Media, the parent company of the dating website for people wanting to have an affair, is offering a $500,000 (NZ$766,301) reward for information on the hackers, who last week released detailed records of as many as 32 million users.
"This hack is one of the largest data breaches in the world and is very unique on its own in that it exposed tens of millions of people's personal information including their credit card data," said Bryce Evans, staff superintendent with the Toronto police. "This is affecting all of us. The social impact behind this leak, we're talking about families, we're talking about children, we are talking about wives, their male partners."
Mr Evans said the police had received two "unconfirmed reports" of suicides associated to the leak".
Several users have also become the victims of blackmail and other "spin off crimes" Mr Evans said.
One scam sends the subscribers an email threatening to expose their infidelity unless they pay the Bitcoin equivalent of approximately $300 (NZ$459).
The mailer tells the victim that this is the only way to "prevent me from sharing your dirt with all of your known friends and family (and perhaps your employers too?)".
Ashley Madison, the Canada-based website has been operating since 2001 and is known for its slogan: "Life is short. Have an affair."
Last week, a hacker group identified as the "Impact Team" released emails and user account information of members stolen from the company's servers. The leaks included the emails of the employees of American, British and European governments.
The hackers also released a second batch of data including corporate emails and sensitive computer source code, and threatened to carry out more attacks.
The hackers said they published the information after the owners of the site refused to bow to their demands that they shut down the "immoral" site.
"Avid Life Media is like a drug dealer abusing addicts," the hackers said in an exchange published with Vice Media's Motherboard website.
The company is now facing a $578 million (NZ$885 million) class-action lawsuit by Charney Lawyers and Sutts, Strosberg LLP, two Canadian firms representing users accusing the company of failing to sufficiently protect their private data.
"In many cases, the users paid an additional fee for the website to remove all of their user data, only to discover that the information was left intact and exposed," the firms said in a statement.
Where to get help:
• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youth services: (06) 3555 906
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (4pm to 6pm weekdays)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• The Word
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
• CASPER Suicide Prevention
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.