Bitcoin Scammers Try and Fail to Sextort 86-Year-Old Woman Who Just Wanted a Free Bagel

By Victoria Song on at

All 86-year-old Arlene Kaganove wanted was a free bagel from American cafe chain Panera on her birthday. Instead, after signing up for the My Panera rewards programme, Kaganove was sent threatening emails demanding she pay $1,400 (£1,146) worth of bitcoin—in exchange for a supposed recording of her watching porn.

“I am always signing up for whatever comes free on my birthday,” Kaganove told local Chicago station NBC 5.

According to Kaganove, the extortionists sent her emails saying they had a recording of her watching porn. The reason she connected the dots to Panera was the emails noted the actual username and password she used to sign up for the My Panera account. And because Kaganove, unlike most of us, exercises extremely good security hygiene, she says the username and password were not used for any other account. In a video interview with NBC 5, Kaganove showed off a physical notebook where she writes down all her passwords and usernames for each site.

Panera suffered a data leak affecting up to 37 million customers last April. That data included names, emails, physical addresses, birthdays, and the last four digits of customer’s credit card numbers. However, Panera itself told NBC 5 that less than 10,000 customers were impacted by that leak, stating, “No My Panera Rewards account passwords were exposed during the April 2018 incident.” With regard to Kaganove, the company added, “We also went over our forensic records from last year and confirmed that Arlene’s account was not accessed improperly.” Sure, Panera—though to be clear, extortionists don’t have to access an account to use leaked data in shitty ways.

For her part, Kaganove at least has a good sense of humour about the incident, saying she found it “hilarious” the blackmailers said they had evidence of her watching porn.

“They told me I have very good taste in porn, so I thought that was nice,” Kaganove told NBC 5. However, she added that if they actually did have a recording, all they’d see is “a little old lady cursing at the computer because it’s not doing what I want it to do.”

Kaganove also added that her favourite bagel is the everything bagel and that she wasn’t planning on investing in bitcoin. Be like Arlene.

Featured image: Screenshot: NBC 5