ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – E-mail scams seek to separate people from their money by promising a share of unclaimed lottery riches, bounty from a dead fugitive, work-at-home schemes and other enticements.
But an Ocean County man recently got an e-mail with a stereotypical Jersey twist: Gimme your money, and I'll cancel the contract someone put out to kill you.
Harry E. Whitworth, 72, of the Whiting section of Manchester Township, opened his e-mail Tuesday to find a curious screed from a man named Eddy.
"I know that this may sound very surprising to you but it's the situation," the e-mail began. "I have been paid some ransom in advance to terminate you with some reasons listed to me by my employer."
The price to call off the hit: $8,000 — half of which is to be paid up front as a sign of good faith. Sort of.
The e-mail also warned him not to tell friends or relatives, since they might be part of the plot to kill, too.
"I kind of knew it was a scam," said Whitworth, a retired accountant who lives with his wife in a senior citizen development. "The prosecutor's office came over to see me and asked if I had been involved in anything in the past that might have caused this to happen."
Whitworth did some Internet research of his own, and found that someone has been running a similar scam in Arizona, with nearly identical e-mails full of typographical errors and misspellings.
The e-mailer promises to send the recipient a videotape of "his employer" putting out the contract on the recipient's life.
But there were no instructions on how to comply with the demand for cash, and no timetable on when it had to be paid in order to avoid sleeping with the fishes.
Capt. Michael Mohel, a spokesman for the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office, said the case remains under investigation but declined further comment.
The FBI received 115 complaints of similar e-mails reaching people across the country in less than a month last winter, according to its Web site. The e-mails vary only in the amount of money demanded, ranging as high as $80,000.
Some even incorporate personal information about the recipient that is widely available from online databases, the FBI said.