Bitcoin Bomb ‘Hoax’ Appears to Have Failed Spectacularly
Companies in English-speaking countries all over the world have reportedly received bomb threats from people claiming to have planted explosive devices in recipients’ buildings – which they will only refrain from detonating should they receive USD 20,000 in Bitcoin.
Police forces across the United States say they have received multiple reports of emailed threats, with similar announcements made in New Zealand. However, numerous police spokespeople have already called the threats a “hoax.” And it seems any would-be scammers have so far failed utterly in their efforts – with zero transactions recorded in the scammers’ wallet the time of writing (UTC 05:50 AM).
Dammit, I guess I sent it to the wrong address.
— Cam (@MYWAY1915) December 13, 2018
However, the apparent scam has succeeded in causing widespread disruption, though, particularly in the United States and Canada. Media organizations including Pennsylvanian local newspaper the Tribune-Democrat, software companies and government buildings in both countries were all evacuated as police were called out to investigate claims.
In some emails, the apparent scammers claimed they would only “call off” their “man” if the recipients made a Bitcoin transfer.
Internet users have claimed that the threats can be traced to a server in Moscow, while some versions of the email threat published online appear to be written in somewhat poorly worded or broken English, although there appears to be little concrete evidence to suggest there are any clear leads in the case yet.
The text of the scam email:
Subject: Do not waste your time
Hello. My man hid an explosive device (Hexogen) in the building where your business is conducted. My mercenary assembled the explosive device according to my guide. It has small dimensions and it is covered up very carefully, it is impossible to damage the building structure by my bomb, but in the case of its detonation there will be many victims.
My recruited person keeps the area under the control. If any unusual behavioror cop is noticed he will power the bomb.
I can call off my man if you make a transfer. 20.000 dollars is the cost for your life and business. Pay it to me in BTC and I warrant that I will withdraw my man and the device won’t detonate. But do not try to cheat- my guarantee will become valid only after 3 confirmations in blockchain network.
My payment details (Bitcoin address): (REMOVED)
You must solve problems with the transaction by the end of the workday, if you are late with the money the device will detonate.
Nothing personal this is just a business, if you don’t transfer me the bitcoins and a bomb explodes, next time other companies will send me more money, because this is not a one-time action.
For my safety, I will no longer log into this email. I check my address every forty min and if I receive the payment I will order my person to get away.
If the explosive device detonates and the authorities see this letter: We are not terrorists and dont assume any liability for explosions in other places.
Per Wired, the FBI is “working with United States law enforcement” on the case, with Oklahoma police stating, on Twitter that “no credible threat [has been] found at this point.” Ottawa police labelled the bomb threats an “unfounded email threat to local business and individuals,” and New Zealand cyber security agency CERT NZ called them an “opportunistic scam.”
Reactions, comments and jokes:
At this time, it appears that these threats are meant to cause disruption and/or obtain money. We’ll respond to each call regarding these emails to conduct a search but we wanted to share this information so the credibility of these threats can be assessed as likely NOT CREDIBLE.
— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) December 13, 2018
Bitcoin bomb threat results in evacuation of Radburn School in Fair Lawn on Thursday afternoon, 12/13. Students evacuated to nearby Grange Hall and dismissed from there. #Bitcoinbombthreat #RadburnSchool #FairLawn pic.twitter.com/T7UJjmwuK5
— Boyd A Loving (@boydaloving) December 13, 2018
#Penticton RCMP say bomb threats at Penticton, Vernon & Kamloops car dealerships involved a threatening email claiming bomb would detonate if they didn’t send bitcoin cryptocurrency, they believe it’s a “swatting” incident and threat unsubstantiated. @GlobalOkanagan pic.twitter.com/XTvvLqqHRP
— Shelby Thom (@Shelby_Thom) December 13, 2018
PSA before the “news” tells you otherwise:
Ransom being demanded in a certain currency does not make that certain currency bad.
Bomb threats made over email does not make email bad. Ransom being demanded in bitcoin does not make bitcoin bad.
The more you know~* pic.twitter.com/3QOEdMacI6
— Graeme Moore (@MooreGrams) December 13, 2018
— Ryan William Grant (@TheeRyanGrant) December 13, 2018
The Bitcoin-spam-scammers have moved on from fake blackmail threats to fake bomb threats. So far no-one's paid anything to the address, and I suspect it'll stay that way. pic.twitter.com/N5MOdmu8Jm
— Tom Scott (@tomscott) December 13, 2018
Also, by the time you have $20,000 in bitcoin, you have $18,000 in bitcoin.
— Martijn Grooten (@martijn_grooten) December 13, 2018
Well, that's a new one. I just got a random bomb threat via email, demanding bitcoin payment. Since I'm at the coffee shop now, I suppose I'm safe. #ransomemail pic.twitter.com/MTj6X56mjm
— Lance King (@analogfusion) December 13, 2018
Here's my Bitcoin…bit of coin…whatever. In case I get a bomb threat, it's on the kitchen counter, in an empty tea tin. pic.twitter.com/0bgE4jDxV5
— Eya has one foot out the door of ATELIER IVAAN (@atelierivaan) December 13, 2018
This bitcoin bomb scam email is actually an ingenious litmus test to detect and confirm who is your ‘Office Idiot’ or ‘Office Drama Queen’. pic.twitter.com/bigbx5UNIP
— usrbingeek (@usrbingeek) December 13, 2018
people who fall for bitcoin bomb threats :: people who know who to send bitcoins @vortmax79 pic.twitter.com/OMmUKBwj0g
— John Venn (@venndiagram4u) December 13, 2018
Here's a new scam to land in my Spam box…a threat to blow up my office building. No, I won't "tansfer" (sic) "20'000 usd" in Bitcoin. Since I work from home I doubt your "mercenary has carried the bomb…into the building where your business is conducted." ? pic.twitter.com/BOTFQD2r4Q
— Elliott Weir, MBA, CFP® (@IIIFinancial) December 13, 2018