Police issue warning after death-threat text message is sent to thousands in Australia

Thousands of Australians awoke Monday morning to find a sinister text message on their phone threatening to kill them unless they paid AUS$5000 ($5140).

“Sum1 paid me to kill you get spared, 48 hours to pay $5000,” the message began. “If you inform the Police or anybody, death is promised…Email me now.” A Yahoo email address was given, though it has since been disabled.

Speaking at a press conference about the incident, detective superintendent Brian Hay of the Queensland Police Service urged recipients of the mail to ignore it. “Do not respond. Delete it immediately. And don’t panic, because that’s what they prey upon,” Hay told reporters.

He believes it was the work of a highly organized gang located overseas and not of someone working alone. “All our past experience tells us when we’ve seen these frauds occur previously that the money has always gone overseas,” the detective superintendent said.

“The reality is this is not a random event, this is organized crime, it’s not one person just having a crack at something. They’ve done their research, they’ve acquired their contact lists, they’ve paid for the distribution of the text messages. This is not a single person, this is an organization.”

Hay said the scale of the crime showed that “the crooks have an extraordinary quantity of Australian consumer data that they’re exploiting.” He added, “I’ve never seen it to this scale.”

Speaking of the criminals responsible for the chilling message, Hay said, “They rely upon your fear to not think logically, but to respond in the manner in which they want you to. I would suspect that people have already fallen victim to this fraud.”

Hay described the perpetrators as “psychopaths,” adding, “They don’t care in any way whatsoever [about] the anxiety, the fear, the detriment they cause to any person. They simply want your money and they’ll do anything to get it.”

At the time of the press conference Hay wasn’t aware of anyone who had paid up, but said he was concerned that senior citizens, people new to the Internet or mobile phones, and anyone not used to getting many messages on their phone may be vulnerable to the scam.

[Image: alexskopje / Shutterstock]

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