FBI warns of email death threats asking for cryptocurrency payouts

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The FBI is warning internet users about a death threat hoax, and a local victim said she was slammed with an alarming email.

"I will be short. I've got an order to kill you," the note said, in part, which demanded $2,800 in U.S. dollars or in Bitcoin, an internet currency.

The victim Christiane, who only wants to use her first name, said the email was deeply disturbing even though she recognized it as a hoax.

"I knew no one was tracking me. But I found myself as I was on my way to work looking around. Are any cars following me? Does anyone look suspicious?" she said.

It is a new spin on extortion said FBI agent Laura Eimiller. Californians especially are being targeted with new scams every day.

"The chances are if you are online, you will be victimized not once, not twice, but multiple times," Eimiller said.

Investigators said the emails are carefully crafted and even educated professionals can be lured in.

Christiane instead went to the FBI's website, www.IC3.gov. It is the agency's Internet Crime Complaint Center, which provides safety information and tracks menacing activity.

"We receive an average of 800 complaints a day in the United States on that site. We believe it represents about 15 percent of the scams that are actually taking place, so it is heavily underreported," Eimiller said.

Bitcoin transactions provide a new level of anonymity for schemers. The virtual currency does not pass through any banking institution. Consumers cannot stop payment like they can with a credit card.

It is easy money for scammers doing volume business.

"If only 1 percent of people send money to them, there's no overhead for them. That is money in the bank," Eimiller said.
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