Many scams take advantage of greed, and some work on vanity. But most use fear as their primary emotion to trick victims into reacting. One of the most visceral forms is the Hitman Scam.
Imagine this shows up in your email inbox:
I want you to read this message very carefully, and keep the secret with you till further notice, You have no need of knowing who i am, where am from, till i make out a space for us to see, i have being paid $150,000.00 in advance to terminate you with some reasons listed to me by my employer, its one i believe you call a friend…
The sender goes on to say they will not kill you if you match the fee they’ve been paid by your friend.
The rest of the message lays out the details for how they will accept an initial payment. Sometimes they promise a later in-person meeting where you can pay the rest in cash.
What They Really Want
Basically, they want you to wire money. The amount can vary but will usually be steep, in hopes that people will draw on any available resource to save their own lives. The scammer is counting on a fear response.
If you get one of these messages, whether by email or text message, do not panic, and never send money. These scams generally originate overseas. The sender is not a hitman and has not been hired harm anyone. They have no intention of coming anywhere near you. Usually, they do not even have means to do so. It is nothing more than an attempt to frighten people into sending money. It’s safe to delete and ignore, whether the threat arrives by email or text message.
- WA ScamNet: Hitman Scam
- FBI: Online Extortion – E-Mail Scam Includes Hit-Man Threat (2007 article)
- AARP: Hit Man Hoax Returns