Australian accused of $5 million bushfire crypto extortion scheme

A Melbourne man is currently facing extortion charges after allegedly threatening to start a bushfire if a considerable amount of cryptocurrency was not transferred to him within three days. 

The 27-year-old was arrested yesterday over a message sent to the Queensland emergency service in October 2022. In October 2022, Queensland emergency services reported an online message from an unknown source demanding $5 million AUD be transferred within three days or a bushfire would be lit. 

Arrest comes after an extensive investigation 

The emergency service reported the ultimatum to the police before any crypto was exchanged, and soon after, the Victorian Police took over the investigations. However, the threat was not carried out, as no bushfire was lit even after the perpetrator’s demands were unmet.

The detectives soon after established that the message had come from a Bundoora address. After an intense investigation, a search warrant was executed at the address last week, which led to the recovery of a phone and two computers. 

The man was taken into custody and is now facing various charges, including threat to damage property, withholding information under a warrant, possession and threat of endangering lives. The accused is set to appear before the magistrate courts on August 1 after securing bail.

Cryptocurrency blackmail on the rise 

Blackmail operations are now taking several forms thanks to blockchain technology. The anonymity of these transactions makes it easier for scammers to get away with crime. 

Several wealthy men from the U.S. have also been receiving bitcoin ransom demands, failure to which would lead to revelations on their past lives or fidelity status.

Patrick Wyman, an FBI agent, suggests practicing caution when sharing personal data and any information regarding your family to protect yourself from these scams.

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