Dentists, doctors, lawyers and other professionals in the Pittsburgh area have been targeted by a "hit man" e-mail scheme, receiving messages that tell them to pay up to keep their lives, the FBI said.

The e-mail, which was sent to most recipients around Christmas, tells the reader that there is a contract out on his life, generally for $50,000. It says that if the recipient sends the "hit man" more money than that — generally ranging from $80,000 to $150,000 — the hit man will leave him alone.

No one has reportedly lost money or been harmed in the scam, but some recipients were unnerved by the messages, said Special Agent Bill Shore, who supervises the computer crime squad in the Pittsburgh FBI office.

"You think, 'What did I get into? What do I gotta do to get out of this?"' Shore said.

The FBI became aware of the scam when people in Atlanta and New Orleans received similar e-mail in early December, Shore said. The scheme seems to have originated in Russia.

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