Local victim of ‘Hackers for Hire’ scam speaks out

OSWEGO, Ill. One day after two teenagers were charged in a worldwide "Hackers for Hire" scheme, one of their Chicago-area victims is speaking out.

Blair Strater is a computer whiz from Oswego who got caught up online with the wrong crowd. He says for years he and his family were harassed by hackers who turned on him. The harassment caused problems at work, issues with credit companies and led to repeated run-ins with police.

21-year-old Stater is computer savvy, as a developmental engineer.

He says back in 2012 he had a fallout with an internet hacker and the man turned on him.

“He sends a one sentence bomb threat written in poor English,” Stater told WGN News. “A couple days later, police are raiding my house turning my bedroom upside down.”

After the threat, Strater says he was taken to juvenile hall for three weeks.

But the man who was out to get Strater didn’t stop there.

“ He then started buying my family’s social security number, my social security number. He had all of our utilities shut off; gas, water, electric, internet, cellphone, everything.  He hired hookers, taxi cars, tow trucks, dump trunks filled with sand to be dumped on our driveway. Stuff like that.”

According to Strater, he also got threatening phone messages.

Strater’s harassers have been charged by the feds.

19-year-old Zachary Buchta of Maryland and Bradley Jan Willem van Roy of the Netherlands are accused of creating online schemes as part of a group called Lizard Squad.

For $20 a month fee, the hackers allegedly harassed victims.

The hackers also sent robo calls, sold stolen credit card numbers and offered to take down websites of companies.

The hacking group rose to prominence in 2014 when it attacked PlayStation and Xbox Live.

Strater says laws need to be changed to make swatting calls – those are the bogus 911 calls about active shooters and other emergencies -- a more serious crime. He says people’s lives are put in jeopardy when they are the victim of a swatting call.