Wave of Bitcoin-Seeking Bomb Threats Sparks Probe by Austrian Police

Police say "numerous" Austrian companies got $20,000 bitcoin ultimatums in the mass extortion campaign.

Aug 25, 2020 at 4:57 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 9:47 a.m. UTC

Austrian police say they are investigating a surge in bomb threat extortion attempts after numerous companies received bitcoin-seeking blackmail emails Tuesday morning.

  • Companies got an email ultimatum: pay $20,000 in bitcoin in the next 80 hours or risk detonation of a hidden plastic explosive. Instructions on how to buy bitcoin were also included in the email, according to Austrian media.
  • Austria's Federal Criminal Police responded with vehicle patrols in Vienna and Tyrol but found no evidence of bombs. They assume the anonymous senders are international.
  • Police said bitcoin bomb threats are a "well-known mass phenomenon," even if Tuesday's reports represented an unusual uptick.
  • The incident is a stark reminder of cryptocurrency's appeal to criminals, owing to the irreversibility of transactions and the absence of any third party who can veto them. The flip side is the public audibility of blockchains can help law enforcement track down perpetrators after the fact.

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