We Were Among Nation’s Businesses Threatened with Bomb Violence for Bitcoin Ransom
We’ve all encountered an email containing a scam of some sort at some point in our adult life — whether it’s the prince of Nigeria in need of our help or a different prince in a different country offering us a long-lost family inheritance — we typically roll our eyes and/or chuckle before deleting these bogus messages without much afterthought.
But what if that message is what appears to be an extreme, personal direct threat on the lives of yourself and those you work with?
How you proceed in the immediate aftermath of receiving such a message is becoming even more important with growing threats of violence becoming motivation for hackers and email scammers more commonly each day.
How it Went Down
It was a Thursday afternoon much like any other Thursday in the Elevation Ten Thousand marketing headquarters in Latham, New York, until an email containing a bomb threat was received in the early afternoon.
Despite some spelling and grammatical errors that are commonplace in many email scams, this email also included a bomb threat — and a bomb threat in any format is a scary situation that needs to be handled diligently and with extreme caution.
Once the email was received by an otherwise-private email address designated specifically for reputation management purposes by several company stakeholders, immediate communication with agency president took place before he alerted several authority members, including local police and the FBI.
In the age of the internet, scams and threats of any magnitude have become a dime a dozen.
For some, a level of desensitization has been reached because the scams are so frequent, others are sent into panic, while others fall for the scam.
It was almost 1 p.m. when we received an email claiming an explosive had been hidden in our building, we were being watched, and to transfer a sum of money ([sic] “20.000,” to be exact) to an account via Bitcoin.
The email we received certainly created some out-of-the-ordinary excitement in our office.
While everyone kept their wits about them, rather than causing panic, we were brought together as a team.
“We recognized that the email was most likely a scam, but with recent current events, we felt it important to consider the email a potential serious bomb threat and notified the Colonie Police Department,” explained David Miclette, President of Elevation Ten Thousand.
It wasn’t long before our staff concluded that the email was a simple (and sad) scam, created solely to incite panic and make a quick dollar.
Even though the email did warn against contacting authorities — “If any strange activity or policeman is noticed he will power the device” — detectives in unmarked cars were sent to our office to ensure our safety.
Bitcoin for Our Ensured Safety
Like many acts of this kind, the person/people behind the scam seek money in exchange for your peace of mind.
“I want to propose you a bargain. You send me 20.000 dollars in Bitcoin and the device will not detonate, but do not try to cheat -I warrant you that I have to call off my recruited person only after 3 confirmations in blockchain network.”
Our safety in exchange of “20.000 dollars in Bitcoin” — a bargain indeed!
There are a few confusing parts to the letter in general, but focusing on the bitcoin amount request, none of it really makes sense.
Please draw your attention to the amount: “20.000 dollars in Bitcoin.” Is it $20 USD in bitcoin (about .005 bitcoins at end of 2018) or is it 20 bitcoins (about $70,000 USD)? And is that decimal supposed to be a comma?
This hacker needs an English tutor. Well, and a guidance counselor.
It appears most likely the scammer used a decimal where there should be comma (if the scammer is, in fact, requesting 20,000 bitcoins and not 20 bitcoins or $20). This could be an accident, or it could be one of many indicators that it is an email scam, drawn up and sent out in a hurried or sloppy fashion.
Bitcoin Scam in the Capital Region
As it turns out, our office wasn’t the only one to receive this threat.
Numerous Capital Region schools and businesses received the same threatening email asking for bitcoin. Each acted in ways that were appropriate, including evacuation and notification of authorities.
Bomb-sniffing dogs and members of the FBI have been brought in to check businesses and schools in the area, as well as across the nation. Each search concluded that the building did not contain a bomb.
It has become a story that made national headlines as authorities search for the sender(s).
At this time, it is unclear if the threats received in the U.S. and Canada are related or if they are connected to similar threats that began in larger cities at the end of August.
Proceed with Vigilance
While we, as humans, cannot prevent scams and hoaxes, what we can do is act with caution and vigilance.
What to Do if You Receive a Scam Email at Work
- Carefully read the email and ensure what you are reading is, in fact, a potential threat on you, your coworkers’, and/or workplace safety.
- Stay calm. In situations such as these, it’s ideal if you don’t let your emotions to get the best of you.
- Notify your direct supervisor, who will likely relay the message to the proper authorities.
- Do not respond to or click on any links within the email. This is especially important if they are asking for personal information or banking information.
- Notify colleagues of the situation and have them report any similar activity to your supervisor. It’s important for the authorities to know if more than one message was received.
Even if it means reading an email four or five times before acting, it’s important to keep our composure and ensure the safety of everyone involved.
Of course, if you’ve received any similar communications from anyone, be sure to report it to the FBI and your local authorities.