Thursday, October 7, 2010


What to do when you are receiving harmful threats from scammers by phone call, letter, or email

Threats from Nigerian-style scammers have become commonplace.  Their threats can range from a warning that if you do not send them money they will report you to the FBI and/or Secret Service, to threats on your life or the lives of your children.
The threats can be terrifying in their intensity and must be successful or the scammers wouldn't keep doing it to extort money from their victims.

Assassination threats, "I've been hired to kill you."  No one has been hired to kill you.  This common scam email is a blatant attempt at extortion and it's working; extortion emails are on the increase.  The emails are written by Nigerian-style scammers sitting at their computers with a form letter which they send out to thousands of people around the world. 
A file cannot be opened without evidence of a crime, and the only ‘tip’ the scammer can provide is to accuse you of his own criminal activities.  Should any authority investigate they will not find the type of evidence required to back up the tip. 
Conclusion: The threat of reporting you to the authorities is an empty threat.  Ignore it.
What to do:
  1. The fastest way to get rid of threatening phone calls is to get yourself a whistle, a plastic one from a discount toy store will do, and blow it loudly into the telephone.  The calls will stop immediately.
  2. Please do not alter your entire life because of the threats; remember that so long as you refuse to send any money or any more money, they will go away.  You are useless to them and of no importance whatsoever to them if they cannot get any money out of you.
  3. Do not bother telling the scammers, either by phone or email, that you have reported them to the authorities.  They simply don't care.  This will not make them stop contacting you.  They will continue to contact you so long as you are responsive.  STOP talking to them and stop writing to them.  Keep in mind that every time you open one of their emails they know about it because they get a notice stating that their letter has been opened (email receipt), and you are also opening your hard drive to them.
  4. Go back to #1: Blowing that whistle in their ear will make you feel very, very good.
Threats of physical violence

This type of threat can freeze you in your tracks.  Usually delivered by telephone, the voice is crude and obscene, filled with imminent danger, and the words are heavily sprinkled with foul language.  Those delivered by email are disgusting in the extreme.

Do not be an alarmist; this will not get you the attention you need.  Be serious, calm, and firm: If you call the FBI, they will may refer you to your local law enforcement but call them anyway. 

You can record the phone calls and make a copy of the tape, or print out the emails and take the tape or printed emails down to your local law enforcement office to get the threats on record. 
To do this, tell them you want to file a "General Report" unless they suggest a different type of report.  Please do not expect the officers to mount surveillance for your protection.  Surveillance is very expensive both in dollars and manpower.  Local law enforcement knows that the likelihood of Nigerian threats being carried out is very, very slim while crimes perpetrated by local individuals is a certainty.

How to Protect Yourself and Your Family: It's always better to be safe than sorry when faced with threats of physical violence (see above).
  1. A little paranoia is a good thing but keep it in check.  If you become too emotional, you're no good to yourself or anyone else.
  2. Avoid being home alone.
  3. Make sure there are always lights on somewhere in your house.
• Buy timer switches at the hardware store.
• Set them so that your lights go on and off in different parts of your house at different times, and so that the radio comes on and goes off, same with the television.   Be unpredictable.
  1. Change your routine wherever possible - do not be predictable.
  2. Keep your doors and windows locked.  Do not open your door to anyone you do not know and whose voice you cannot easily recognize through the door.  If opening your door is an automatic reaction, stop it.  You DO NOT have to open your door to anyone.  Do not assume you know who is on the other side, or that it is ever safe.
• If someone says they are the police or the FBI, and you have a peephole or other means of seeing outside, have them hold up their badge where you can clearly read it.  Take your time.
• If you do not have a peephole or other means of seeing outside, ask them what office they are from, call information to get the phone number for that office (do not use a phone number they give you), then call to verify.
• Use the same precautions with deliveries, repairmen, everyone.
  1. Scout alternate your routes to and from the store, the bank, the office, etc.  Be unpredictable.
  2. If you have children, make sure they are not left outside unsupervised.
• If they are driven to activities, make sure that whoever is dropping them off walks into the facility and checks in with the attending adult who has been made aware of the situation in advance.
• If they are to be picked up, whoever is picking them should arrive early, enter the facility, check in with the attending adult, and walk the children to the car.
  1. Be aware of your surroundings at all times.  This is a bit of a hassle at first, but after a while you will become accustomed to noting who is in your vicinity and what they are doing.  If you notice anything that gives you pause, go into the nearest building and wait.  Exit by a different door if possible.  Be unpredictable.
  2. Do not park far from any building.  If you cannot find a parking space that is close to the building, wait.  Drive around for a while.  When you go back to your car, see if you can find someone to escort you.  If you cannot find someone to escort you, hold your car door key in your hand ready to insert into the lock.  Walk firmly and quickly to your car, open the door, get in and immediately lock the doors.  This is a good practice for all women regardless of whether or not there has been a threat.
  3. At night, keep your shades drawn.
What's really going on:  It's important that you understand that scammers are in the business of making money from their victims - not in the business of spending money on them when there is no possible profit.  Yes, it's true: one occasionally reads of a scam victim being killed by a fraudster; however, it is extremely rare and occurs when there is a long-term close, personal, face-to-face relationship between the scammer and his or her victim.  That is not the case in the variety of scams we are discussing here.

Sending a fraud ring member or hired goon to beat up or kill an uncooperative scam victim is very expensive.  The costs are twofold: 1. The travel and job expenses; and 2. The risk of exposure to and arrest by local law enforcement.

Remember I said that scammers are in the business of making money, not spending money on uncooperative victims.  "Uncooperative" is the key word.  While a determined scammer may try to squeeze more money out of a victim by using threats, if none is forthcoming they move on to their other targets.

As for the risk of exposure to local law enforcement, financial scams do not carry the same weight as violent crimes.  Once scammers begin resorting to violent crimes, they will be hunted down by international law enforcement with vigor.  This is not what the scammers want.  They are quite happy with their low profile, which is far more profitable. 

Help Fraud Aid report to law enforcement: If you have received or are receiving threatening emails, please FORWARD them to Fraud Aid following the instructions you will find here:  The emails will be entered into our research database.
Most threat emails are form letters.  Some have been slightly altered, but they are all sent out by the thousands.  Common variations may be entered into our online database, but not until all recipient information has been removed.  Your personal information is never compromised.
We never post threat emails that are obscene or very personal.  We send those directly to law enforcement.
If we have the time a Source Report will be added to the posted sample email, letting viewers know where the scammer was generally located at the time the email was written. 


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