Nina's Stillwater Calendar

Wednesday, June 20

You mean the line we passed a few miles back?

The latest craze on the Internet to convince people to give their hard earned money to total strangers is what is known as the hitman scam. Someone sends you an email, either generic or containing publicly available information about you, in which he claims to have been hired as a hitman to kill you and offers to let you outbid whichever of your friends or relatives hired him. As a victim who reported the email to the FBI complained "This is not acceptable. This is really stepping over the line." (I didn't make that quote up.)

Though I agree with him that sending threatening emails intimating that your friends want to kill you and demanding money are "over the line," it isn't clear where this line is. If we have to point out this is "over the line" I assume the line must be somewhere nearby. Would it help if the hitman left off the part about friends and just threated to kill the target if he didn't get the money? It is, after all, a technically honest way to make a living. Assuming follow-through. What about a more personal approach? For example, on which side of the line is a face-to-face encounter involving a knife but no threats of future violence which may disrupt your dinner parties? What about a paper note? If a paper note is "over the line," does a traditional approach, like cutting out letters from newspapers and gluing them in rows, make the note more acceptable? Where do threatening emails sent in the course of a divorce fall? After all, it is actually from someone who was once a friend.

Note: Having spent the day reading Miss Manners, I cannot resist pointing out how a polite hitman should have handled the situation. Assuming this is a hobby (and does a generic email threat sound like a professional to you?), he should have offered to kill the target without mentioning money at all and then acted politely surprised at a thoughtful monetary gift. He should also have thanked the target with a handwritten note.

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