Police in many Iowa cities on Thursday responded to bomb threats that were quickly determined be non-credible.
Ames Police Commander Geoff Huff says the robo-emails or calls were mainly received by large shopping centers and businesses – and provided many Iowans with at least a brief scare. “The caller is, in some way, saying that there’s a bomb and if they aren’t paid in either iTunes gift cards, Google Play gift cards, or something similar, then they’ll detonate the bomb,” Huff explained.
Ames Police officers responded to early afternoon bomb threats at the city’s airport and a Target store.
“We pretty quickly heard this was a fairly widespread issue, so it wasn’t too hard to figure out after a short period of time that this was a widespread scam,” Huff said.
Similar threatening calls or emails were reported across Iowa and the country. Huff hasn’t heard of anyone falling for it and expects this robo-threat will be coming to an end. “Hopefully people are getting the word now so that no one is falling for it and maybe (the criminals) will stop if it becomes unprofitable for them,” Huff said.
According to Huff, criminals behind these threats and similar scams have started demanding money be loaded onto Google Play or iTunes gift cards because they’re difficult to trace.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office reported one of the calls to the Animal Rescue League, and a spokesman for the Des Moines Police Department says they had at least 7 bomb threats.