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New E-Mail Scam: Pay Assassins Or Be Killed

The FBI is investigating a new scam aimed at extorting tens of thousands of dollars from wealthy professionals.

Wealthy professionals are being hit this week with a new e-mail extortion scam that's set up to appear to be assassins who will murder the recipient if he or she doesn't send them thousands of dollars.

This new wave of e-mail extortion began at the beginning of the week, according to Don Jackson, a researcher at SecureWorks. The e-mails have an air of legitimacy because they come from valid e-mail accounts, instead of spoofed "from" addresses.

And if that isn't enough to worry the people being extorted, if they reply to the e-mails, the scammer actually responds with personal information about the victim, according to SecureWorks.

"It is most likely that this personal information is being obtained via phishing e-mails, sites that sell personal information, which has been harvested by malware, etc.," said Jackson in an e-mail to InformationWeek.

He estimated that SecureWorks saw about 1,000 of these e-mails go out as of Wednesday at noon.

According to SecureWorks, the scammer tells the recipient that he has been hired to "terminate" them but for a fee, he is willing to not go through with it.

"i have being paid a ransom in advance to terminate you with some reasons listed to me by my employer, i have followed you closely for one week and five days now and have seen that you are innocent of the accusation," one e-mail reads. "Do not contact the police or try to send a copy of this to them, because if you do i will know, and might be compelled to do what i have being paid to do, besides this is the first time i turned out to be a betrayer in my job."

The scammer then goes on to say that for a total of $40,000 -- $30,000 up front with $10,000 later -- he will not go through with the hit and he will give the victim a tape recording of the person making the assassination request.

The first of these types of extortion scams was detected in December, according to the FBI. About 115 complaints were filed with the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center, according to a written advisory from special agent John Hambrick, who heads IC3.

Hambrick recommended that no one reply to these e-mails.

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