Business owners in Amsterdam are living in fear of criminals who are threatening to cause acts of terror unless they are paid an extortion fee in bitcoin.
According to a Netherlands publication NLTimes, emails have been sent to multiple businesses in Amsterdam demanding bitcoins worth 50,000 euros. Failure to pay, the emails warn, hand grenades will be planted at the business premises or the businesses will come under a hail of bullets forcing closure. In the Dutch capital, businesses are required to shut down for a period of time in case of a shooting or after an explosive device has been found.
“You probably noticed how many entrepreneurs have had to close their doors recently by order of the municipality. To prevent you from being the next one, you must immediately take action,” reads a section of the emailed threat.
To pay the extortion fee, victims of the extortion scheme are instructed to open an account on either of two specific cryptocurrency exchanges – Coinbase and Coinmama. They are then required to buy bitcoins on either exchange and transfer them to a specified address.
Since mid this year, a nightclub and at least three coffee shops have received the threats. The criminals have also made it clear that the extortion fee will be doubled to 100,000 euros if the payment is not made within five days.
The emails also demand confidentiality and warn recipients against informing the police or anyone else. Failure to maintain confidentiality, the emails warn, will result in the extortion fee being quadrupled to bitcoins worth 200,000 euros. Immediate action to ensure the business shuts down for a minimum of three months will also be taken, the emails add. So far no business has confessed to paying the extortion fee.
While this is not the first time that criminals are extorting bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies from businesses, the use of threats of violence or terror is rare. Instead, criminals have largely chosen to deploy ransomware and this has proved to be a lucrative business. Cybersecurity firm Sophos estimates that creators of the SamSam ransomware have generated bitcoin worth more than US$6 million since 2015.
So rare are threats of terror for extortion purposes in the cryptocurrency space that in one of those isolated incidents where this tactic was employed, the target was a bitcoin startup. As CCN.com reported around three months ago, this was in the case of a Norwegian bitcoin mining farm Kryptovault which received bomb threats after noise-related conflicts with the residents neighboring the facility.
“This is sabotage. If you are expanding crypto mining and filling the country with noise, then you will be sabotaging the peace. I am threatening to send you some explosives,” read the bomb threat which was sent to Kryptovault.
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