Enlarge (credit: CloudFlare)

In less than two months, online businesses have paid more than $100,000 to scammers who set up a fake distributed denial-of-service gang that has yet to launch a single attack.

The charlatans sent businesses around the globe extortion e-mails threatening debilitating DDoS attacks unless the recipients paid as much as $23,000 by Bitcoin in protection money, according to a blog post published Monday by CloudFlare, a service that helps protect businesses from such attacks. Stealing the name of an established gang that was well known for waging such extortion rackets, the scammers called themselves the Armada Collective.

“If you don’t pay by [date], attack will start, yours service going down permanently price to stop will increase to increase to 20 BTC and will go up 10 BTC for every day of the attack,” the typical demand stated. “This is not a joke.”

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Businesses pay $100,000 to DDoS extortionists who never DDoS anyone