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E-mail Scam Warning

The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) is warning residents to be on their guard against a new scam which preys not on the recipients greed or good intentions but on their fears.

The scam email, which first appeared in the USA in December 2006, threatens to kill recipients if they do not pay thousands of dollars to the sender, who purports to be a hired assassin. The scam does not appear to target or be addressed to anyone specifically and consequently could be sent to thousands of email addresses.

"We received a compliant of this nature and subsequent investigations and conversations with the FBI have proved this email to be a hoax," said Detective Chief Inspector, Henderson Hunte of the Financial Crimes Unit. "If anyone receives an email of this nature, please do not respond." Replying to emails sends a signal to senders that they have reached an active account and can also escalate the intimidation.

In the USA, a recipient responded that he wanted to be left alone and threatened to call the authorities. The scammer then replied, reiterated the threat and included some personal details about the recipient; his work address, marital status and daughters full name. However, the FBI says recipients should not be overly spooked when scammers incorporate their intended victim's personal details, as this kind of information is widely available.

This scam is a less subtle version of other email scams designed to trick recipients into turning over money or personal details. Nigerian letter scams, in which recipients are offered the 'opportunity' to share in a percentage of millions if they first front some of their own money, are among the most prolific, along with other unsolicited emails to 'update' personal information.

This extortion email, which is new to the Cayman Islands, may vary in style and content but all those reported in the USA generally contain misspellings and some broken English. The underlying message however, appears to be the same: pay the sender or risk being killed.

The best defence to this type of scam is to protect your personal information as best you can and to delete - unopened - unsolicited SPAM email.

For more information on these types of scams, please visit the FBI website: http://www.fbi.gov/cyberinvest/escams/.

Anyone with information about crime taking place in the Cayman Islands should contact their local police station or Crime Stoppers on 800-8477 (TIPS). All persons calling crime stoppers remain anonymous, and are eligible for a reward of up to $1000, should their information lead to an arrest or recovery of property/drugs.

What Should You Look for?

The criminals behind these types of tricks are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their approach and often use logos, emblems and well known company names to make their communications appear more genuine.

In one recent incident, a Cayman based business received a letter claiming to be sent from the Auditor of the Bank of Scotland. The letter explains that there is an account holding around 30,000 pounds sterling which is currently unclaimed. The author asks the recipient to act as a beneficiary to the account, resulting in 35% of the funds being passed over to them at the end of the business deal.

It can be hard to distinguish between genuine and non-genuine communications, especially if you receive a large amount of email, faxes or letters. If you do receive communication that you are concerned about, you are urged to be very cautious.

Should you receive correspondence with the following characteristics, it is more than likely to be bogus or seeking to scam or defraud:

  • A letter or e-mail from someone you have never heard of
  • Offering you money for doing basically nothing, other than claiming the cash
  • Originating from a foreign country. (Many of them come from Nigeria or other African country; however more recently these emails are originating from other parts of the world including China, Russia, the Middle East and Europe.)
  • The sender wants you to act urgently
  • There is usually money tied up in some bank account, will or hidden vault. Sometimes, the sender proposes to simply send you a cheque (which will be forged).
  • The sender usually asks you to keep it confidential
  • If asked, the sender will tell you that your name was obtained from the consulate or some other source that you probably never gave your name to.
  • The sender will try to alleviate your scepticism by calling you, showing you official looking documents, or have the other associates contact you to vouch to the legitimacy of the proposed endeavour.
  • Other common characteristics include lots of misspellings, typos, appeals to GOD, calling you 'a friend,' referring to you as honest or trustworthy, a reference to a barrister or government official as a partner and use of generic language e.g. Sir, your country.