Since long before the creation of the Internet, there were dastardly devious people coming up with countless ways to part people from their money.
Shams and scams abounded. It seems these con artists have been around since the advent of currency.
Adding the power and reach of the Internet has simply tossed gasoline on the scamming fire.
For years now, anyone with an email address has occasionally — or constantly — been asked to help out a ‘friend’ in another country cash in his giant fortune, left to him by his great Uncle Bazber. In order to help out, he wants your bank account information.
Or you’ve gotten an ALL CAPS email notice that you’ve just won a two-week cruise to the Bahamas. They just need a $200 deposit and your Social Security number.
Leave it to scammers to keep inventing new ways to part you from your money. The latest tactic involves death threats and surfaced this week right here in town — in fact, right here at the newspaper.
Publisher Rick Bacon was the unlucky recipient of a long and winding email that demanded some of his money, so his life would be spared.
In the email the author said they would like to meet Bacon in person but first wanted $5,000.
“When I received the death threat I was sure it was a scam, but since it was the first time I had seen or heard about one, I contacted the Rockingham Police Department,” Bacon said. “The first officer on the scene and I had a good laugh until he read the email and realized, scam or not, my life had been threatened.”
Bacon spoke with Detective Sgt. D.E. Young of the Rockingham Police Department, who warns about the changing methods used by scammers.
“As law enforcement discovers and warns the public about on-line and email based scams, the scammers must come up with new ways of attempting to empty your bank account,” said Young. “The scams have become quite a bit darker recently, moving from fake lotteries to death threats … .”
While death threats and extortion demands are nothing to take lightly, recipients of messages such as the threat received by Bacon can take solace in the fact that they are boilerplate texts — folks in different parts of the country have received identically-worded messages, the FBI said. Federal agents are already investigating this bizarre new form of spam.
Sometimes, poor grammar or misuse of words gives the scammer away. For example, the email to Bacon said, “Do not arrange for the cops and if you play hard to get, it will be extended to your family… I have been paid ransom in advance to terminate you … .”
The most important thing to know about these emails is that if you receive one, you shouldn’t respond. In addition to soliciting your cash, the perpetrators hope to persuade you to share personal data so they can steal your identity.
The FBI encourages recipients of scam messages to file a report online at www.ic3.gov.