Retail giants across the United States, including Walmart, Kroger, Meijer, and Whole Foods, have recently become the targets of a series of hoax bomb threats. While these threats have, to date, proven to be unfounded, they have created a climate of apprehension and disruption in stores across the nation.
The perpetrators of these threats have maintained their anonymity by using blocked phone numbers and have demanded ransom payments in various forms, including Bitcoin, gift cards, and cash.
In one instance, an anonymous caller claimed to have planted a pipe bomb in a suburban Whole Foods store in Chicago, demanding $5,000 in Bitcoin. Similarly, a Kroger store in New Mexico was threatened with the detonation of a bomb unless a money transfer was made to the caller. In both cases, the stores were evacuated, and law enforcement was summoned, but no bombs were found.
The FBI and other law enforcement agencies are investigating these threats. Retailers have been urged to report any potential threats to 911 immediately, obtain recordings of the call, and contact their local FBI offices as a matter of urgency.
These threats have been a source of significant disruption for retailers, forcing store closures and the evacuation of customers. Retailers have been implementing new safety protocols since the incidents escalated this spring.
“It’s disruptive,” Doug Baker, vice president of industry relations at food trade group FMI, told The Wall Street Journal. “If I’m a retailer…I’ve gotta close stores and have to call law enforcement. And send customers out.”
Speaking to The Journal, Retail Industry Leaders Association senior vice president Lisa Bruno called the hoaxes “another evolving scam” targeting retailers.
Scammers often demand ransoms in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin because they can be sent quickly and anonymously without using a bank as an intermediary. At the time of writing, Bitcoin was trading at $30,235, reflecting a decrease of 0.68% in the last 24 hours.
Editor’s note: This article was written by an nft now staff member in collaboration with OpenAI’s GPT-4.