IT is a worrying new twist on the raft of scam e-mails which are sent every day.
Instead of offering an investment opportunity or pledging a share of a lottery win, an Edinburgh man has told how he received an e-mail demanding thousands of pounds to call off his assassination.
The e-mail, accompanied by a picture of a marksman, warned Stewart Dawson, 33, that “someone you call a friend” had “paid some ransom in advance to terminate you” and provided a Western Union address to wire the cash.
Police said a number of people in the Lothians had been targeted by the scam and urged anyone who received the e-mail not to respond “in any form”.
Mr Dawson, who runs a DVD distribution company from his Morningside home, said: “I get scams in my inbox everyday but when I saw this one it gave me an eerie chill.
“I had to read it twice because I couldn’t believe what I was reading.
“I think people who are vulnerable or a novice to the internet may not realise it is a hoax.
“People have been caught out with the ones that try to lure you in with the promise of money but this one has taken a much more sinister angle.”
Mr Dawson said he tried to track down the e-mail address through an online database of known fraud sites but drew a blank.
“That made me think it must be brand new,” he said. “It’s probably the easiest business to run, you write one e-mail, click a button and it spreads all around the world.
“The fraudster can just sit back and watch the money roll in.”
“I hope people receiving them in future will now realise that it’s not a threat.
A spokesman for Action Fraud, a service run by the National Fraud Authority that helps co-ordinate the fight against scams in the UK, said: “This e-mail aims to create an intense level of fear and contains a threat of violence which is not the traditional kind of scam we see.
“Usually they offer great deals where you will ultimately lose your money.
A police spokesman said: “Lothian and Borders Police are aware of an e-mail scam where an unknown sender makes threats against the recipient’s safety unless a sum of money is paid.
“These e-mails are hoax and should not be responded to in any form.
“Anyone who believes there is a genuine threat to their safety, they should contact police immediately.”