Police throughout Maryland are warning residents of a threatening text message scam they say can erase data from mobile phones.
The text messages read "I've been paid to kill you but wish to spare you, inform the police or anyone else you will die, to be spared contact email@example.com immediately via email," according to the Harford County Sheriff's Office.
Residents in Baltimore and Baltimore, Harford and Carroll counties have reported receiving the message.
State police urged anyone who receives the text against responding. Replying to the message leaves a device susceptible to a data hack.
Police say recipients should simply delete it.
"We've gotten several complaints and are simply advising the public that scams, particularly Internet and over cell phones, are getting increasingly direct, which entices an individual into thinking it's real, when in fact [it] most always isn't," Carroll County Sheriff Jim DeWees said.
DeWees advised anyone who receives messages "that seem to hard to believe" to contact law enforcement.
"We'll help you work through it," he said.
Baltimore County police said residents are reporting other scam messages.
County residents reported receiving calls from someone who is claims to be with the Maryland State Police and says the recipient failed to appear in court or has a warrant for their arrest.
Baltimore County police do not make such phone calls, Cpl. John Wachter said.
He said residents should not send money or give bank or credit card information over the phone. If an individual has a warrant for their arrest, he said, that individual must be taken into custody in person.
Wachter said anyone who receives a phone call from someone claiming to be with law enforcement but whom the recipient doubts is legitimate, should tell the caller they'll call back and hang up.
Then the recipient should call police.
Baltimore County police sad they did not know whether anyone provided personal information or money in response to one of the bogus messages or phone calls.
Baltimore Sun Media Group reporters Sean Welsh, Wayne Carter, Jon Bleiweis and David Anderson contributed to this story.