Retailers are dealing with a different kind of theft than the typical shoplifter—they are facing bomb threats.
- U.S. retailers are experiencing a wave of bomb threats, with callers claiming they will detonate a bomb unless paid in gift cards, Bitcoin, or cash.
- Law-enforcement officials are investigating the current trend that has affected giants like Walmart, Kroger, and Whole Foods Market across the U.S.
- One Chicago Whole Foods employee was told the caller would detonate a pipe bomb without a $5,000 Bitcoin payment. Another New Mexico Kroger employee was told to wire money to the caller without contacting the police, or a bomb would be set off in the store, The Wall Street Journal reports.
- Law enforcement was contacted in both instances, and the stores were evacuated. No suspicious items were found at the locations.
Why it’s news
So far, these threats have been empty, but such a serious claim must always be treated as if it is true, leading to store-wide evacuations and closures for the remainder of the day. The repeated loss of revenue for an entire day can strain the retailer, not to mention the mental and emotional stress put on employees who have to experience the threat.
Businesses, schools, and entertainment venues have been dealing with a growing number of false bomb threats related to scammers and hacking groups over the years. However, bomb threats with a related ransom are more unusual and are now growing more common, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Major retailers are working with law enforcement to decide how to handle these scammers. The FBI says it is working with local authorities in the affected areas to catch the attempted scammers.
Local officials have difficulty tracing the callers because they often use blocked phone numbers. Whether or not these scammers work alone or are part of a larger group is unknown. So far, stores have not received multiple calls. A few did not demand ransom, only made a threat.
Officials continue to take each call seriously and ask that businesses not give the callers money. Staff who may speak to one of these callers should try to get as much information from the scammer as possible, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Bomb threats with ransom demands began several months ago but have increased since spring. Some callers have demanded hundreds of dollars, others thousands.
While most retailers do not disclose their bomb threat protocols for security reasons, some like Whole Foods have recommended that its team leaders and managers attend bomb-threat protocol training. The company has instructed employees to alert team leads about any threats. From there, the team leaders or managers check the store for suspicious items and follow proper procedures.