Recently, I was the target of a scam e-mail. Now, I know that doesn’t sound too exciting, but bear with me for a few paragraphs—the story gets better. This e-mail was sent to my RPI account, but also through the Poly Features e-mail list. It never actually reached my inbox—or my Respite, strangely—but it did show up in the Respite of a friend who is also on the Features list. When my friend saw the e-mail, he contacted me worriedly straight away.
The e-mail’s subject line was “YOUR LIFE IN DANGER. I AM HIRED
TO SHOOT YOU.”
Reading over the e-mail, it was immediately apparent that it was a scam—the “hit man” wanted me to pay him to not kill me—but it was one that I’d never heard of before, so my friend and I took the e-mail in to Public Safety just to be cautious. The helpful officers there were able to verify that yes, it was a scam—they even found the exact text of the e-mail in a list of malicious e-mails.
Public Safety assured me we’d done the right thing bringing them the e-mail, and we filed a report with the FBI’s internet crime website. The officers said they would talk with the Troy Police Department to try and trace the scam and make absolutely sure it wasn’t anything more serious, and that was that. Most importantly, they said, do not reply to the scam e-mail at all. The people behind it would just try to get access to my personal information and steal my identity if I did.
So, something I could have just blown off turned into a couple hours’ worth of hassle, just because someone thought a student paying 50-plus grand of tuition a year would have the money to pay off a hit man. However, despite my complaining, if this should happen to you, then you should do exactly what I did—go to the authorities with it. Don’t take chances with your life. If they targeted one RPI student, what’s to say they won’t try others?
If you receive a questionable e-mail that you think might be a scam, there are places on the internet you can go to try and find out. If you’re sure it’s a scam, or if you fall victim to a scam, you can report it to the FBI just as I did on its website. And as Public Safety told me, the best way to defend yourself is not to respond to these e-mails. Don’t give them a chance to get your personal information.
To avoid getting these e-mails in the first place, avoid giving out your e-mail address except to people you absolutely trust. Alternatively, you could create a second e-mail address to give to sources which might share it, and keep your personal e-mail private. In addition, just to beat a dead horse even more, never give out personal information online. I can hear you saying, “But I don’t give out any information that matters!” Every piece matters. You might think it harmless to put your birthday on Facebook, for instance, but if your profile is public, then that’s one step closer to becoming you for an identity thief.
The moral of the story is, practice internet safety. Don’t give out your information, and don’t respond to scam e-mails or open attachments in e-mails you weren’t expecting to receive. And if your life is threatened, no matter how empty you think the threat is, go to the authorities about it.