A local business was briefly caught up in a “swatting” incident dotting North America today as dire emails warned businesses and agencies across the country to pay a $20,000 Bitcoin ransom or face the consequences – a bomb that had already been planted.
In the end, there was nothing to worry about at All Star Ford of Kilgore, but police officers and the company’s employees took immediate precautions when the email hit an online inbox.
According Kilgore Police Lt. Johnathan Gage, it soon became clear the dealership had been struck by the same hoax making headlines across the United States and Canada Thursday afternoon. Start to finish, the situation lasted just 15 minutes here as other law enforcement agencies across the country tackled similar incidents.
“We got that call at 1:17 p.m. We didn’t know what was going on at the time,” Gage confirmed.
The threat didn’t begin making the news until a bit later in the afternoon, well after the five KPD personnel who responded to the Hwy. 259 business – Gage, a patrol officer and three detectives – joined All Star Ford in sounding the all-clear.
Though he doesn’t have a copy of the original email threat, “I got details of it on the way. I thought it was kind of hokey-sounding,” Gage said, though he understands the precaution.
From a copy of a midday email making the rounds, the alleged perpetrator demanded thousands of dollars in Bitcoin or a “mercenary” would detonate a bomb already planted on-site.
Coordinating with All Star Ford, “They filled us in on the information. Once we spoke with them, they decided it was a hoax and they didn’t want to proceed any further with a mass exodus or any type of evacuation plan,” Gage added. “We agreed with that. We were able to determine pretty quickly what it was.”
It’s the only email threat he’s aware of here.
As KPD personnel investigated, “Our dispatcher told us other places were getting that. That was the only one in town that we knew of ... The main thing is everybody’s OK, and it’s business as usual at All Star Ford.”