All she wanted was a free bagel for her birthday, but instead she fell victim to a $1,400 extortion scheme. Arlene Kaganove, an 86-year-old Chicago resident signed up for a ‘My Panera’ rewards card so she could get her favorite bagel for free on her birthday. But as she told NBC 5, she ended up being extorted for $1,400 in SegWitCoin (BTC).
“I’m always signing up for whatever comes free on my birthday,” Arlene stated. “I never anticipated it would lead to extortion letters.”
After signing up for the reward card from the renowned St. Louis-based bakery chain Panera Bread, she started receiving threatening emails from an unknown source. So far, she has received six of these. “They all say they have pretty much been watching me watch porn, which I found quite hilarious,” she told the outlet. They also told her that they had recorded her using her webcam.
“They told me I have very good taste in porn so I thought that was nice,” she humorously narrated.
The emails demanded that Arlene paid $1,400 in BTC to get the recordings. The scammers provided a BTC address on the email. As of press time, the address was empty with no transactions yet. It could mean that either the target victims haven’t been gullible or they have been using different addresses to reduce chances of traceability.
According to Arlene, who has two masters in chemistry, if they had managed to access her webcam, what they would have recorded was “this little old lady sitting there cursing the computer because it’s not doing what I want it to do.”
Arlene wasn’t about to bite the bait. She described the emails as “the most bizarre thing I have ever seen” and decided to go and tell all her friends about it.
However, while she didn’t fall for the con, she has questions for Panera Bread. The company, which has over 2,000 locations in the U.S. and Canada, revealed in 2018 that its website had leaked customer data including names, physical addresses, emails and birthdays. In their emails, the scammers cited her username and password for Panera’s site, an indication that they had access to her data.
Arlene called on everyone to be more vigilant stating, “If they are sending six (emails) to me, obviously they are sending a lot more out there to other people. And I’m sure, somebody is sending the money.”
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