If you have opened your inbox recently to find an email reputedly from a contract killer saying a hit has been taken out on you but that it can be cancelled if you pay out - do not panic. This is merely one of the latest scams doing the rounds.
The email often starts by saying it is not a joke or a prank, before stating the sender - usually with a name such as Death Angel - l’ange de la mort - has links with organised crime and has been hired to assassinate you.
The sender goes on to say they have details on you, your movements and daily habits. They then say if you pay them not only will they not fulfil the contract but they will give you all the information on the client who took out the hit.
Finally, the email tells you to respond within 48 hours and warns you not to go to the police as the sender is monitoring all your movements.
Read more: Four common scams to watch out for in France
What is it?
This email is a scam, attempting to scare you and trigger a reply. If you reply the sender is likely to attempt to extort money from you.
What should you do if you receive it?
Firstly, do not panic.
This type of email has been sent to thousands of people whose email addresses can be found online. France’s cyber monitoring website, Cybermalveillance.gouv.fr, has noted several waves of this type of email scam since May this year - so you have not been personally targeted.
Secondly: do not respond and do not pay out. Any type of response - even just to say you know it is a scam - will show the sender you have engaged with the email and will encourage them to step up their efforts in trying to scam you.
Regardless of what this email, and any others might say, no threats of this type have been followed through because someone refused to pay. By paying out you would be feeding the criminal system and also increasing the likelihood you will be targeted by other scams in the future.
Thirdly, report the scam to France’s spam reporting website, Signal Spam. This website helps the state and private companies in the fight against spam emails and scams.
Fourthly, report the extortion attempt to the relevant French government website PHAROS. PHAROS is an online reporting system that invites people to report illicit online content and behaviour.
What to do if you have fallen victim to this scam
Should you have paid the scammer under French law, you are an extortion victim. Extortion is punishable under French law with a seven-year prison sentence and a fine of up to €100,000.
Keep all the evidence. Keep all the messages you received from the scammer and proof of payment as this will help you report the crime to the authorities.
Report the crime to the police or gendarmerie, providing copies of all the evidence you collected as above. You can be supported while making this report by the association France Victimes. You can contact them on 116 006, seven days a week between 9:00 and 19:00. The association runs the victim helpline for France’s justice ministry and some information is available on its website in English.
Contact your bank if you have paid to try and cancel the transaction.
If you need any extra advice or help in reporting the scam, contact the justice ministry’s Info Escroqueries - scam information - platform. You can call them for free on 0 805 805 817, Monday to Friday between 9:00 and 18:30.