Junk e-mails can be a nuisance, but when they become threatening, that's something altogether different.
Local and state law enforcement officials were put on alert last week after learning of a string of e-mail scams going around that threaten to kill the person receiving them.
The Indianapolis office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation said the person in the e-mails is threatening to assassinate the person receiving them unless he or she pays several thousand dollars in return.
The subject claims to have been following the victim for some time and was supposedly hired to kill the victim by a friend of the victim.
The subject threatens to carry out the assassination if the victim goes to the police or if they do not respond quickly and provide their telephone number.
Local law enforcement officials say there have been no reports of these e-mails reaching anyone in Putnam County, however, they warn that residents should be on alert.
Greencastle Police Detective Randy Seipel said people should never open an e-mail if they don't know the person who is sending it to them. He said he is not aware of anyone locally receiving the messages.
FBI Special Agent Wendy Osborne, with the Indianapolis field office, told the BannerGraphic that Hoosiers in areas outside Putnam County have received the threatening e-mails in recent weeks and she suspects there may be more.
"You may have people in your area who received these e-mails and haven't come forward yet," Osborne said.
Most people will remember the Nigerian e-mail scam that has been going on for several months in which victims were persuaded to give money or provide their personal banking information to a person claiming to be someone overseas needing help sending money back to the U.S.
Osborne said this latest scam is more alarming.
"To me this is a step up from the Nigerian scam because they are threatening someone's life," she said.
So far officials have not been able to track where the e-mails are coming from, although some news reports indicate Russia may be the place.
"We believe they're from overseas, but it's still too early in the investigation to be sure," Osborne said.
In the meantime, anyone who receives one of these bogus messages is asked to contact the Information Crime Complaint Center by visiting the website: www.ic3.gov.
On the website is information on how to file an official complaint with the agency.
"The bottom line is these e-mails have gone out all across the country," Osborne said.