Scammers threaten US retailers with fake bombs demanding ransoms in Bitcoin

Anonymous scammers target major retailers such as Walmart and Kroger with fake bomb threats and demand Bitcoin as a ransom

A supermarket
Ransomware payment demands vary from hundreds to thousands of dollars

According to yesterday's report from The Wall Street Journal, major US retailers have been flooded with calls from anonymous scammers in recent months. The malicious actors threaten retailer employees with bombs and demand ransom payments, mainly in Bitcoin but also in cash and gift cards.

The Journal cites one such incident that occurred in a suburb north of Chicago. An extortionist called Whole Foods Market and demanded a payment of $5,000 in Bitcoin (about 0.16 BTC at press time), claiming there was a pipe bomb in the store.

Instead of complying with the scammer's demand, the store management contacted the police, who did not find a bomb.

Walmart and Kroger are also among the most frequent victims of the fake bomb scam.

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Although it is a great relief that the threats made by scammers are not real, such events are rather disruptive to the work of stores.

"If I’m a retailer, I have to close the stores and call law enforcement. And send the customers out," Doug Baker, vice president of industry relations at food trade group FMI, told The Wall Street Journal. Interestingly, some of the extortionists asked retailers for just several hundred dollars.

Whole Foods Market recommends other retailers create a bomb protocol and implement it with employees.

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Ransomware demands are one of the most popular types of attacks today, and cryptocurrencies are widely used for such ransom transactions. However, Chainalysis found that total losses due to ransomware attacks in 2022 dropped significantly from $766 million in 2021 to $457 million. One of the possible reasons for this trend is the unwillingness of victims to pay ransom.