MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Young people in crisis in Minnesota may have trouble calling a local helpline.
The Bridge for Youth organization said that cyber attackers seeking money shut down the center’s main phone number Tuesday morning. The attack began when someone called and demanded $525 from the organization.
When the organization refused, constant calls from all over the country started jamming up the main line.
“We’re unable to call out, unable to get calls coming in because the line is constantly busy,” said the director of The Bridge for Youth, Dan Pfarr.
He said someone is calling over and over from all different numbers, clogging the lines and asking for money. That person didn’t even budge when they were told it was a crisis line.
Typically, The Bridge For Youth line takes calls from teenagers who are contemplating suicide or being abused.
“They could have one number, one moment to call, and it would be this crisis line, and at this point, what they’ll get is a busy signal,” Pfarr said.
WCCO talked with a cyber-security consultant who says this sounds like TDOS (telephony denial of service). In this type of attack, scammers use computers to make repeated calls.
Nakedsecurity.com reports that TDOS scammers are targeting emergency call centers in the U.S. and demanding money. The report said the FBI is aware.
At The Bridge For Youth, organizers are waiting for help, but there aren’t many minutes to spare.
“Kids lives depend on it,” Pfarr said.
The Bridge for Youth went ahead and changed its number Tuesday, but schools, counselors, police, and others still have the old number.
The new number for The Bridge for Youth is 612-230-6601.
The organization is looking for help to be able to use the old number again.