Victim of Durham ‘swatting’ incident thinks motive was tied to digital currency

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DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – The Durham SWAT team had to come out Monday because of a hoax, and the victim says he think he knows why it happened.

That morning, someone called 911 saying, “I have everyone else in the house hostage, and I’m not sure what I should do.”

Not long after, Jameson Lopp looked outside his home on Whispering Oak Lane to see dozens of police officers. However, there were no hostages inside, and he says he didn’t call 911.

“So, there are plenty of people out there who hate me for one reason or another,” he said.EARLIER: Durham man says ‘enemies’ called 911 to report false hostage situation

Lopp works for a Silicon Valley company called Bitgo that helps companies use digital currencies like Bitcoin. Bitcoin’s value has skyrocketed more than five times what it was at the start of the year.

“And, there’s a lot of money on the line. Bitcoin, in aggregate, is almost a $100 billion system at this point,” Lopp said.

There is no single entity that owns or regulates Bitcoin, and there’s a fight over its future, said Lopp.

“So, we have a sort of big economic conflict of interest between people who want to see the direction of the system go in different ways,” he said. “You inevitably have some people who are unhinged who are then going to be potential threats to you afterward.”

Other incidents like what happened in Durham have happened in other parts of the country in the last few years trying to extort people tied to the Bitcoin industry. WIRED reported on a case in California in 2014.

“After the incident I started receiving extortion, threatening messages. So, basically, people trying to scare me, trying to get me to send them money,” Lopp said.

Lopp said he doubts investigators will find who did this to him, saying these people are good at hiding their identities. He says police told him they traced the 911 call back to Texas but hit a dead end at that point. He says the caller likely used online services to create a number that’s no longer tied to anyone.

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