E-mail 'Killer' Duping People Into Paying to Save Their Lives

An e-mail scam involving "hired killers" is making the rounds, according to Attorney General Larry Long.

"The Consumer Protection Division and the Division of Criminal Investigation has received several complaints about this particular e-mail over the past week," Long said in a release. "This latest e-mail is a straightforward attempt by con artists to exploit individuals with fear."

The message, which warns against contacting the police, claims to be a threat by a hired killer. It says the "victim" can stop his or her own murder by wiring a specified amount of money to the sender.

Long said people should not respond to the e-mail. He said anyone worried about suspicious e-mails can contact the FBI or forward the e-mails to the state's consumer protection division.

The attorney general's office says two other scams have surfaced in e-mail and on lookalike Internal Revenue Service Web sites.

One notifies people by e-mail that their tax return will be audited or that they are eligible for a refund. It ask people to click on a link, which then sends them to a site that looks like the IRS Web site, but is not.

The second scam also involves lookalike IRS Web sites — which ask for information such as Social Security or bank account numbers.

Sara Rabern of the attorney general's office said such scams surface this time of year.

"We have a lot all year long, but it seems like as soon as January rolls around, they pop up in greater numbers," she said. "When tax season comes, we see significantly more."

"I think any time anything smells suspicious, check it out. Don't respond to anything unless you know exactly who you're dealing with," said Lynn Peterson, vice president of CorTrust Bank in Yankton.