Killer Spam: Hitman Scams on the Rise and Getting Scarier

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An alleged "Hitman" offers to cancel his attempt on your life in exchange for tens of thousands of dollars. The extortion attempt is real. But is the death threat?

The Hitman Scam email, which is perhaps the scariest of all email scams, is now making the rounds again

"The Hitman Scam email, which is perhaps the scariest of all email scams, is now making the rounds again," warns Dr. Audri G. Lanford, Co-Director of, a public service website that has been helping people protect themselves from Internet scams since 1994.

"Although the extortion attempt is real, fortunately the threat on your life is a scam," says Dr. Lanford. "Your life isn't in danger, but your wallet may be if you respond to the email."

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Hitman email made its debut in U.S. email boxes in December of 2006. The scammer claims to have been hired to kill you -- but is willing to betray his employer if you pay him tens of thousands of dollars (or more) to go away. The scammer hopes that you'll be too frightened to notice the broken, misspelled English, or to ponder the odds that a Hitman would really be hired to "take you out."

The email threatens: "Do not contact the police or FBI." Why? Because both the FBI and your local police will tell you the same thing: it's a scam email, sent out in bulk. In fact, the emails typically don't contain any personal information about the recipient. So the only way scammers will find out anything about you is if you tell them.

"This is a hoax, so do yourself a favor and don't respond," says special agent John Hambrick, head of the F.B.I.'s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). urges Internet users to protect themselves with these easy steps:

Don't panic. Hitman scam emails can be very scary -- these scammers definitely know how to frighten you. Don't ever reveal personal information (name, Social Security number, bank account routing numbers, credit card account numbers) to a complete stranger. Use common sense. In the unlikely event that you receive an email threat that contains personal information about you or a family member, go to the police and FBI immediately.

Consumers can learn more about how to protect themselves from the Hitman scam by visiting

About is a public service that has been helping people protect themselves from Internet fraud since 1994. Founded by Co- Directors Audri and Jim Lanford, provides a free weekly email newsletter that shows you how to protect yourself from cunning scammers -- online and offline. offers a lively, entertaining and opinionated approach to avoiding the most popular scams, viruses, spyware, phishing scams, identity theft ploys, credit card fraud schemes, and urban legends making the rounds.


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Audri G. Lanford, Ph.D.
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