January 15, 2007
Imagine opening your email inbox and reading a message from an alleged assassin - claiming you're the target. It sounds like something out of a horror movie, but it's been happening in real life to hundreds of people. The gist of the email - pay the hitman thousands of dollars, or die. The FBI reports receiving 115 separate complaints since the hitman spam was first spotted in early December 2006.
Special agent John Hambrick, head of the FBIs Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), cautions that recipients should not respond to the hitman email, as doing so "just sends a signal to senders that theyve reached a live account (and) also escalates the intimidation."
The hitman emails often include personal information - one such email even included the recipient's daughter's full name in an attempt to legitimize the correspondence. But as frightening as this might seem, such personal details are trivial to obtain in today's computer-connected world. According to special agent Bill Shore, supervisor of the computer crime squad in the FBIs Pittsburgh field office, "Recipients should not be overly spooked when scammers incorporate their intended victims personal details in their schemes", noting that "personal information is widely available.