MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Shortly after noon Thursday, the employees at Peifer Safe and Lock off Cherry Road. received an ominous email.
“It seemed like some spam emails we've received in the past, but this one threatened physical violence,” said Matthew Peifer.
The sender said they hid a small bomb inside the building.
Someone would have to transfer $20,000 in bitcoins by the end of the day or that bomb would detonate.
The company received two more similar emails in about an hour, and Peifer called police.
“We did a cursory search of the building, asked all our employees if they had noticed anything suspicious or out of the ordinary and nobody had noticed anything strange,” Peifer said.
Turns out Peifer wasn't alone. Several other businesses in the Mid-South received the same email, including a Toyota car dealership, an aircraft repair office, and an auto parts store in Bartlett.
Even the President of the Better Business Bureau of the Mid-south got the email threat.
“They initially thought someone was just trying to tie up police resources,” Peifer said.
It was actually tying up resources all across the country. Similar threats were sent to schools, businesses and hospitals in several other states.
In every instance, including the ones in Memphis, it was deemed a hoax. Peifer suspected that all along.
“The bitcoin request, you know trying to be untraceable and remain anonymous,” Peifer said.
Nevertheless, authorities say any threat of violence should be taken seriously.
Thursday afternoon, the Better Business Bureau sent out a warning to businesses about the bomb threats:
A series of what appears to be unfounded bomb threats were made via email today to organizations and businesses in Memphis and across the country. The emails have subjects like “Think twice” and “Think about how they can help you” and appear to be robo-generated spam.
The email message received by one Memphis business indicated that a mercenary had hidden an explosive device in the business’s building. The sender threatened to detonate the device unless the business pays $20,000 in Bitcoin by the end of the day. Multiple businesses in several states have reported receiving the same email. These emails have led to dozens of precautionary evacuations throughout the United States.
So far, none of the threats have proven to be credible. However, any bomb threat should be taken seriously and reported to local law enforcement.
If you receive the email, BBB recommends that you:
- Contact your local law enforcement agency.
- Do not pay the ransom.
- Delete the email.
The Memphis branch of the FBI released this statement in response to the bomb threats: