Australian police investigate text and email death threat scam

24 Jul 2012

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The scale of an email and text messaging scam has surprised police in Australia, after thousands of people received a message demanding they pay up AUS$5,000 or be killed.

"Do not respond (to the message). Delete it immediately and don’t panic, because that’s what they prey upon,” Det Supt Brian Hay of the Queensland Police Service told a press conference.

Police believe an organised crime gang is behind the text and email scam, which began landing on people’s phones and inboxes on Sunday.

"Sum1 paid me to kill you. Get spared, 48hrs to pay $5000. If you inform the police or anybody, death is promised," the text read.

The message then directs people to a Yahoo! email account which police have disabled.

Police said senior citizens and those unfamiliar with the internet are most likely to fall victim to the scam.

"If any member of the public has transferred any money it is vital they contact police and their bank immediately," police said.

Hay deemed the scale of the scam as "unprecedented".

"We’ve never see this anything like this before – to have so many people contacted at the same time,” said Hay.

Hay also said an investigation is examining whether the perpetrators are based in Australia.

Tina held senior editorial positions at daily newspapers in Ottawa and Toronto

editorial@siliconrepublic.com