DETROIT LAKES -- Worried Becker County residents have flooded the Sheriff's Department with calls relating to death threats sent via e-mail, Sheriff Tim Gordon said Thursday.
Gordon said the FBI recently released information verifying the communications are a hoax designed to extort money.
The e-mails should be ignored and deleted immediately, said Gordon, who added most of the e-mails are being generated in Eastern Europe and the United Kingdom. No one in Becker County has responded to the threats, which were first seen around the country in 2006, and have popped up several times since then, according to InformationWeek.
The scam email threatens to kill recipients if they do not pay thousands of dollars to the sender, who says he is a hired assassin.
The scheme appears more credible than it would otherwise because of personal information used to make the message more intimidating.
In one case elsewhere in the country, the FBI said, a recipient of the death threat responded to the sender asking to be left alone, and received a reiteration of the threat that included his work address, his marital status and his daughter's name.
The FBI has received more than 100 complaints since the messages first begin showing up in Dec. 2006 and again in January 2007.
The FBI aid people should not be overly distressed even about threats with personal information, because such information is widely available.
"There is also an IRS one going around, with directions to open the link and do nothing else," Gordon said. "When you open the link it dumps in software to spy on your computer."
That allows the sender to collect sensitive private information that can be used to steal identities.
As a general rule, all suspicious e-mails should be deleted immediately, and links should never be opened, he said.