Dozens of institutions across the country, including here in Iowa, received email threats Thursday afternoon, causing evacuations and sweeps of buildings.
The Cedar Rapids Police Department said that at least four businesses have received the threat, including KCRG-TV9. Police said the threat is not credible and appears to be a robo-email sent hoping to scam businesses out of money. Several of our sister stations across the country have received similar threats.
CNN reports that threats have been reported across the country. The FBI said it is aware of the threats and is working with law enforcement to provide assistance.
Some of the emails had the subject line: "Think Twice." They were sent from a spoofed email address. The sender claimed to have had an associate plant a small bomb in the recipient's building and that the only way to stop him from setting it off was by making an online payment of $20,000 in Bitcoin.
"We are currently monitoring multiple bomb threats that have been sent electronically to various locations throughout the city," the New York City Police Department's counter-terrorism unit tweeted. "These threats are also being reported to other locations nationwide & are NOT considered credible at this time."
Other law enforcement agencies also dismissed the threats, which were written in a choppy style reminiscent of the Nigerian prince email scam.
The Palm Beach County, Florida, sheriff's office and the Boise, Idaho, police said they had no reason to believe that threats made to locations in those areas were credible. One of the emails wound up in a spam filter, Boise Police Chief William Bones said.
The FBI said it is assisting law enforcement agencies that are dealing with the threats.
"As always, we encourage the public to remain vigilant and to promptly report suspicious activities which could represent a threat to public safety," the FBI said in a statement.
Across the country, some schools closed early and others were evacuated or placed on lockdown because of the hoax. Authorities said a threat emailed to a school in Troy, Missouri, about 55 miles (88 kilometers) northeast of St. Louis, was sent from Russia.
The bomb threats also prompted evacuations at city hall in Aurora, Illinois, the offices of the News & Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina, a suburban Atlanta courthouse and businesses in Detroit.
"Organizations nationwide, both public and private, have reported receiving emailed bomb threats today," Michigan State Police spokeswoman Shannon Banner said. "They are not targeted toward any one specific sector."
Penn State University notified students via a text alert about threats to a half-dozen buildings and an airport on its main campus in State College, Pennsylvania. In an update, the school said the threat appeared to be part of a "national hoax."
Officials at Columbine High School in Colorado were dealing Thursday with a bomb threat of a different sort. Students were being kept inside for the rest of the school day after someone called in a bomb threat against the school.
The Jefferson County, Colorado, Sheriff's Office said the caller claimed to have placed explosive devices in the school and to be hiding outside with a gun.
There is nothing to validate the threat was found at Columbine, where 12 students and a teacher were killed by two students in 1999, according to Sheriff's spokesman Mike Taplin.
Two dozen other Colorado schools were also temporarily placed on lockout, meaning their doors were locked but classes continued normally, as the threat was investigated.