BROOKSVILLE — While scrolling through e-mails on his BlackBerry over the weekend, state Rep. Rob Schenck came across one in particular that caught his eye.
And not just because of the mangled syntax.
"I felt very sorry and bad for you," read the e-mail, "that your life is going to end like this if you don't comply, I was paid to eliminate you and I have to do it within 10 days. ... I might just spare your life, $8,000 is all you need to spend."
Schenck managed to shake off the online threat long enough to report the e-mail to the Hernando County Sheriff's Office. He was one of at least four Hernando residents who received the same message in recent days.
"When you read something that disturbing, for a moment you do get concerned," Schenck said Wednesday. "No matter whether it's fake or not, if someone talks about killing your family, it's unsettling."
On Wednesday, the Sheriff's Office called the e-mails part of an online scam and warned residents against sending money to anyone. Authorities said people who receive the e-mails should immediately delete them.
The Sheriff's Office urges anyone who has sent money in response to the e-mail to file a report with the agency.
"We want to let the public know that you have to be a willing victim to fall victim," said Sgt. Donna Black, a spokeswoman with the Sheriff's Office. "This is just a new scare tactic to get money out of people."
Schenck and Jeff Kraft, a Hernando detective who works fraud cases, were two of the four Hernando residents who have reported the e-mails over the weekend. Black said the only apparent link among the four is they are all Realtors.
The e-mail's subject line reads "I felt very sorry and bad for you" from "firstname.lastname@example.org".
From there, the message warns of certain death — ordered by an unnamed "friend'' — unless the reader sends in $8,000 in two separate payments.
The e-mail also cautions the reader against contacting the authorities because the threat "will extend it (sic) to any member of your family since you are aware that somebody want you dead, and the person knows some members of your family as well."
The e-mail contact is "a.k.a. email@example.com."
Schenck said he's received lots of similar scam e-mails over the years but this time his wife urged him to contact the authorities.
"The sheriff has done a good job in trying to assess the situation," he said. "It's just one of those new fishing scams to try to bilk people out of money."
Joel Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 754-6120.