By Lynn Lieu
There have been all kinds of email scams surfacing since the beginning of the Internet, from lottery to dating scams. While each email depicts a different scenario, at the end of the day all they’re after is your cash. Lottery scams ask you to pay fees in order to get your fake winnings. In a dating scam, you can be tricked into thinking someone is generally interested in getting to know you, then being asked if you could help them pay a bill to have their car fix or cover hospital expenses. Earlier this month, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department issued a warning about the resurgence of yet another email scam circulating the Inland Empire.
According to the Sheriff’s Department, the “hitman scam,” which had surfaced and died down in 2006, has popped up again.
“In the email, the sender claims to have been hired by ‘someone you know very well’ to kill you. But the sender says that he will reconsider carrying out the ‘hit’ for a price,” according to a press release issued by the Department. “The price varies from a few thousand dollars to as high as several hundred thousand dollars. The email will further warn the recipient not to contact the police or family members will be harmed.”
The Sheriff’s Department issued the notice to warn local residents that the purported “hit” was actually a scam and to refrain from sending any money.
“We just want to make sure that people are aware that it is going on, that it is a mass email, that it is not directed at them, and there is not a hit put out on them,” says Arden Whiltshire, a public information officer for the Department. “Just ignore it, just delete it unless it specifically says their name in the email or anything personal, unless there are specifics in the email that are directly related to the recipient then we need to be aware of it right away, so contact your local law enforcement agency.”
According to Wiltshire, there have been between one and two dozen reports of the scam—though the county has yet to investigate a scam like this.
“This came to our attention probably about a month or so ago. I’d say around Thanksgiving, some time in November was when we started getting calls about it,” she says. “It’s been both the High Desert where we’ve been getting reports as well as in the Valley.”
Wiltshire also said that there have been reports of people falling for the scam.
“There have been a couple people who have sent money and then, in thinking about it and talking to other people, decided to bring it to our attention,” says Wiltshire. “But of course the money is gone, it goes overseas so there’s nothing we can really do about it past that. What happens is it filters through a couple different companies and it’s very difficult to track it, which is why they use overseas accounts. People could lose thousands of dollars, anywhere from a few hundred to thousands. And it’s all money order, never a check. They may try to get a credit card, but mostly what we hear about is [a request for money via] Western Union.”
While this scam has been under investigation by the FBI since 2006, there are still no leads as to who exactly is sending the emails.
“Most of these scammers come from Russia or places like that. It’s just impossible to track down where they’re originating from,” says Wiltshire. “We can get as far as to tell that they’re coming from overseas and that’s about it.”
The San Bernardino Count Sheriff’s Department and FBI encourages anyone who receives the email to report it to their online site at www.ic3.gov. For more information on email scams like this visit www.fbi.gov, www.urbanlegends.about.com, or www.snopes.com.