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Hitman scam targets New Zealanders

Hon Judith Tizard
Minister of Consumer Affairs

10 March 2008 Media Statement

Hitman scam targets New Zealanders

As this year's Fraud Awareness Week comes to end, a new scam reported to SCAMwatch reminds us of the need to be vigilant and not to respond to unsolicited emails.

The email scam, dubbed the “hitman scam” by overseas authorities, has appeared in New Zealand. The email threatens to kill the recipient unless they give in to demands and pay thousands of dollars to a cyber extortionist.

“This sort of scam variation demonstrates the need for an awareness programme like Fraud Awareness Week”, says Consumer Affairs Minister Judith Tizard. “While many people recognise a scam when they see it, a new version like this can be confusing and upsetting.”

“This is a particularly vicious email scam with the potential to really worry people –and it demonstrates how far scammers will go to get your money,” says Judith Tizard.

The email suggests that a ‘friend’ wants the recipient dead and has hired the writer to kill the recipient. If the recipient makes contact and pays the writer, then the ‘contract’ will be postponed or cancelled. The recipient is told not to contact the Police, or to tell anyone. If they do, then the writer will “extend” the threat to the recipient’s family.

There are various versions of the “hitman scam” email demanding between $1,000 to more than $100,000. Versions of the email have been sent to thousands of email addresses in the United States and more recently in Australia. New Zealanders have also started to be targeted by versions of this scam, and SCAMwatch has been alerted.

Overseas police are urging people to ignore the email, saying it is an empty threat and their life is not in danger. The advice being given in New Zealand is also not to respond. To do so invites further contact with the scammers and the possibility of escalating threats.

Anyone concerned that a threat to their life may be genuine, is advised to report it to their local Police.

“As with all scams, New Zealanders can report this type of scam to SCAMwatch, so others can be made aware of it and protected from it,” Judith Tizard said.

ENDS

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