The electronic message, sent to resident’s private inboxes, claims to be from a sympathetic assassin who thinks that the recipient of the email has wrongly had a contract taken out against them. The fraudster offers to forgo his job in return for a large amount of money; he will then provide proof of who has taken out the ‘hit’ in return for even more cash.
Throughout the email the recipient is warned not to contact police or tell friends or family about the content of the message.
DC Mark Aldridge, of Lancashire Constabulary’s Economic Crime Unit, said: “Anybody receiving this kind of email could feel intimidated and genuinely concerned that their safety is at risk. In actual fact this email is simply a spin-off from other emails designed to scam the public out of their money.
“The police take these matters extremely seriously, however, the poor English used is indicative of the fact that this scam originates from overseas. This makes investigation extremely difficult due to the various jurisdictional issues. We are looking into the matter but if anybody receives such emails our advice is to simply block the sender and delete the email.”
Head of Lancashire County Council Trading Standards, Paul Noone, said: "These criminals are constantly coming up with new ideas to try and catch people out, but anyone who receives this scam should ignore it and not be taken in by its threatening nature.
"Scamnesty, the annual Lancashire Police and Trading Standards campaign, will run throughout next month to raise awareness of this type of fraud.
"The intelligence we receive through Scamnesty is very valuable in helping us to understand the scams that are out there and advise people to avoid them.
"The sad reality is that while scams are a massive problem, with some people being conned out of very large sums, only one in 20 victims report them. This makes it very difficult to target prevention and take action against those responsible."
Estimates put the cost of fraud to Lancashire residents alone at £64m annually.
Advice to follow if you receive an unsolicited email from an unknown source asking for personal details or cash:
- Know who you are dealing with – be suspicious if contacted out of the blue by someone you haven’t heard of. Don’t be fooled by official looking letters, websites etc.
- Be sceptical – if an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Take your time – don’t be pressured into making snap decisions. Discuss it with family or friends or contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 08454 040506.
- Protect your financial information – never give personal information, including your bank details to someone you don’t know or trust.
- If in doubt, delete the email.