Scammers are finding a new way to get money from people by emailing death threats. One such death threat showed up in the email inbox of Daily Journal Publisher Rick Bacon at 11:23 a.m. Monday morning.
In the email the author said they would like to meet Bacon in person but first wanted $5,000, according to the email.
“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,” said Bacon. “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. Any person in the City of Rockingham who receives a suspicious email containing threats may contact Det. Sgt. D.E. Young with their concerns at the Rockingham Police Department.”
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. The email, for instance, 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 … .”
It is known so far that the messages are originating from Moscow, Russia, and are being emailed to addresses apparently selected from professional databases (i.e., they target recipients chosen because they presumably have the resources to pay an extortionist). As FBI Cyber Crime Supervisor Bill Shore noted in an interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, “All they’re looking for is one guy to pay off. Then their job is done.”
Recipients should not reply to these messages. 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, according to law enforcement.
The FBI encourages recipients of the scam message to file a report online at www.ic3.gov.