High-tech foreign criminals may have hacked into retail security systems in order to remotely monitor customers and employees in the course of at least 12 bold robberies in as many states during the past week, officials say. FBI agents are seeking an individual or group of conspirators who have been calling stores and banks from Texas to Kansas to Rhode Island on pre-paid, overseas cellphones and informing whomever picks up that a bomb will be detonated at the location if funds are not wired to a specific offshore account. What’s more, the caller claims to have visual surveillance of the premises and proceeds to give certain accurate details about the environment — in one case attempting to get a hostage to cut off another’s fingers, and in another forcing everyone in the store to strip naked. CNN is reporting that at least $13,000 has been extorted so far — though the total is likely much higher — and that investigators are now pursuing a suspect in Portugal “who appears to be linked to the account number” that the money is being transferred to.
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