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Extortion Scheme Leads To Kalispell Bomb Threat

Hands holding a phone.

A fake bomb threat at the Kalispell Walmart Wednesday was initially labeled by law enforcement as swatting incident, where pranksters hijack phone numbers in order to report fake threats to police. But the bomb threat was actually part of a scam to extort money out of a Montana correctional officer.

Kalispell Police Chief Doug Overman says the bomb threat called into the Kalispell Walmart Wednesday afternoon initially seemed like a swatting incident because the phone number that called the store had been hijacked to mask its true source.

But after talking to the Montana correctional officer that number belongs to, police found out scammers had called the unnamed victim earlier that day asking for money. Overman says the scammers told the correctional officer they were going to use the officer's phone number for nefarious acts if they didn’t pay up. The scammers eventually called in the bomb threat.

Overman says this is the first time he’s seen this kind of scam.

"I’m just at the cusp of trying to understand some of the threats of this, and hopefully our investigation leads us to understand, again, how we can prevent these type of things in the future."

Kalispell police did respond to the threat and encouraged residents to stay away from the area. Overman says they were quickly able to determine there was no threat. Overman says his department is still investigating and hopes to discover who the scammers are.

Aaron graduated from the University of Minnesota School of Journalism in 2015 after interning at Minnesota Public Radio. He landed his first reporting gig in Wrangell, Alaska where he enjoyed the remote Alaskan lifestyle and eventually moved back to the road system as the KBBI News Director in Homer, Alaska. He joined the MTPR team in 2019. Aaron now reports on all things in northwest Montana and statewide health care.
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