"Hit Man" spam returns, FBI warns

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The “Hit Man” email scam has resurfaced this summer with a new twist.

An alert from the FBI and the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), has reported two new versions of the scheme. One instructs the recipient to contact a telephone number contained in the email and the other version claims the recipient or a “loved one” would be kidnapped unless a ransom is paid.

Recipients of the kidnapping threat were told to respond via email within 48 hours. The victim was threatened with bodily harm if the ransom was not received within 30 minutes of the time frame given.

Richard Kolko, an FBI spokesman, said the new twist is that the email comes personalized with the recipient's name, home address, and other information.

“The bad guys are using whatever they can to enhance the email,” Kolko told SCMagazineUS.com on Friday. “The information they use is pretty easy to find online.”

The email is meant to extort money from the recipient, which Mike Paquette, chief strategy officer of Top Layer Networks said is just another version of social engineering.

“From a technology perspective, there is nothing new with this spam,” Paquette said. “The real difference is that most social engineering is positive, while this spam is threatening.”

The FBI has received more than 5,000 complaints about the Hit Man email since 2006, with hundreds more arriving since its resurgence in July. Kolko said the FBI assures users that every complaint is taken seriously.

“There is no validity to this email,” he said. “Just don't respond to it and don't send money.”

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