FBI Says To Ignore E-mail Death Threats

The threat is a hoax, the FBI said. The agency received more than 100 complaints the last time the e-mail threat started showing up in in-boxes.

Thomas Claburn, Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

February 26, 2008

1 Min Read

Recipients of e-mail messages threatening death at the hands of a hit man unless a $20,000 payment is made can sleep more easily. The threat is a hoax, the FBI said on Tuesday, reiterating warnings issued in January 2007 and December 2006 because threatening messages continue to circulate.

"A new scam cropping up in e-mail boxes across the country is preying not on recipients' greed or good intentions, but on their fears," the FBI said last year. "The scam e-mail, which first appeared in December, threatens to kill recipients if they do not pay thousands of dollars to the sender, who purports to be a hired assassin."

The FBI said at the time that it had received about 115 complaints about the threatening e-mail through its Internet Crime Complaint Center since the scam emerged. Snopes.com explores the malicious missive more thoroughly.

While jaded Internet veterans might scoff that anyone would take such a threat seriously, the scheme appears more credible than it might otherwise because of its use of personal information to make the message more intimidating. In one case, the FBI said, a recipient of the death threat responded to the sender asking to be left alone and received a reiteration of the threat that included his work address, his marital status, and his daughter's name.

Bill Shore, a special agent who supervises the computer crime group at the FBI's Pittsburgh field office, said that recipients of such threats shouldn't be overly distressed because personal information is widely available.

Worried recipients may also be comforted by the fact that poor grammar is common in the variants of this message, which suggests the self-proclaimed hit man may reside in a foreign country.

About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

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