If you’ve been around a computer and email for any length of time, you’ve probably come across more than your fair share of phishing emails. These messages, named due to their intention of getting you to take the bait and provide money or personal information to the sender, run the gamut of content and storylines.
These emails are so rampant and often so outrageous that they’ve become a cultural joke, so much so that the popular name for them is “Nigerian prince” emails. These messages are not only known for their poor grammar and completely generic tone, but for their unbelievable premise: “My uncle is the former king and we need your help getting our millions of dollars out of the country, for which you will be handsomely compensated,” is just one of the more common storylines in these emails.
But what do you do when the story isn’t so humorous, and when the tone isn’t so generic? Take a look at one such email that is currently circulating:
How are you? Am very sorry for you my friend, is a pity that this is how your life is going to end as soon as you don't comply. My duty as I am mailing you now is just to KILL/ASSASSINATE you and I have to do it as I have already been paid for that. Someone you call a friend wants you Dead, and the person have spent $ 500.000 to kill you , he provided us with your name ,picture and other necessary information's we needed about you. So I sent my boys to track you down and they have carried out the necessary investigation needed for the operation on you, but I told them not to kill you that I will like to contact you and see if your life is Important to you or not since their findings shows that you are innocent. I called my client back and ask him of you email address which I didn't tell him what I wanted to do with it and he gave it to me and I am using it to contact you now. As I am writing to you now my men are monitoring you and they are telling me everything about you. Now do you want to LIVE OR DIE? Get back to me now if you are ready to pay some fees to spare your life, If you are not ready for my help, then I will carry on with my job straight-up. WARNING: DO NOT THINK OF CONTACTING THE POLICE OR EVEN TELL ANYONE BECAUSE I WILL KNOW. REMEMBER, SOMEONE WHO KNOWS YOU VERY WELL WANTS YOU DEAD! I WILL EXTEND IT TO YOUR FAMILY, IN CASE I NOTICE SOMETHING FUNNY. your hobis is “dog groomer at Poodle Boutique.”
Hopefully reading that message just now didn’t give you chills, but if you received that in your inbox, it very well might. Be take comfort from this fact: this is just another phishing email, and it’s been going around for the past six or seven years.
If you’ll look at the message—if you can stand to—you’ll see familiar aspects of every other phishing email. First, the grammar is unbelievably bad. Notice that it takes the usual amount of time in the message for the sender to get to the point: send me money. Also, if you’ll look online for other examples of this message, you’ll see that they carry a similar characteristic—the killer offers to let you buy your life back because he now sees you did not do what you are accused of doing. (NOTE: If you did receive this message and are worried, cut and paste the entire message into a Google search…you’ll see other examples and articles that address the exact email you received.)
The most telling thing in the message above is actually the last sentence. The spelling is bad, so it might not have jumped out at you, but the would-be killer is trying to tell you that he knows information about you when he misspelled, “Your hobbies are…” Unfortunately, this is a real email that was received and shared with the ITRC, but in that space was the recipient’s LinkedIn profile! Yes, the sender cut and pasted the LinkedIn profile tagline and sent it in this message to the email address associated with the recipient’s LinkedIn account.
Takeaway: Emails like this are upsetting, of course, but they are not real. This type of email actually became less common for a while, but may be on the rise due to the current political climate and the recent horrific headlines about individuals being captured and harmed. If you are concerned, you can alert your local law enforcement, but they have very little means for determining where this email originated.
The single most important thing you can do is NOT respond, however. These emails—and all other phishing emails—are basically a game of darts. The senders put these emails out there all day long, remember, hoping someone takes the bait. Once you respond to the email, they know they’ve hit on a live human being with a valid email address, and that is when they can start harassing you or trying to frighten you into complying. By ignoring the hateful message, you’ll be sparing yourself some further and more serious malicious contact.