Application security

New death-threat phishing scams target professionals


Spamming scammers claiming to be contract killers have hit unsuspecting email users with a new con trick, security experts warned this week.

The swindle is a new spear-phishing technique designed to cheat professionals out of their money with a death threat. The typical hitman spam email claims to be from an assassin who has been paid by one of the recipient's acquaintances to kill the recipient for $40,000. But "lucky" for the recipient, the email offers the recipient a reprieve for double that amount—with a down payment of $20,000.

Recipients are also warned not to contact authorities, because according to one such email, "if you do i will know, and might be pushed to do what i have being paid to do."

"This is surely one of the sickest phishes yet seen," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "The intention of this email is quite clearly to frighten the recipient into coughing up a substantial amount of money or, at the very least, their bank account details."

The FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) reported that it began to receive complaints of this scam late last year. In addition to these hitman spam messages, IC3 reported on its website that other messages with a twist on same theme have also surfaced.

In these emails, the spammer writes that an individual was recently charged with the murders of several U.S. and U.K. citizens in relation to this matter, that the recipient's information was found on the subject identifying the recipient as the next victim, and that the recipient should contact the FBI in London.

"Now emails are surfacing which claim to be from the (FBI) in London," the IC3 reported on its site. "It is not uncommon for an Internet fraud scheme to have the same overall intent but be transmitted containing variations in the email content."

Click here to email West Coast Bureau Chief Ericka Chickowski.

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