A caller tells victims their spouses are being held for ransom.
Frederick, Md (KM) It’s a common scam that pops up from time to time. Michelle Bowman, Public Information Officer for the Frederick Police, says it involves family members in trouble. “So you’ll get a call, and the other person on the phone is going to say ‘hey, your wife just hit my son with her car. And we’re holding her hostage until you give us x amount of money. And if you don’t pay up, we’re going to kill her,’” she says.
Bowman says these people will also ask for information on your spouse. “Sometimes, they’ll ask for the spouse’s name and the spouse’s phone, and they’ll say ‘give me your spouse’s phone number and we’ll prove that we do have them, and we’ll call you from that number,’” she says. “So they’ll spoof the number and the next call you get will look like it’s coming from your spouse’s cell phone.”
She says there have been a few people who have given out this information. “Then they’ll get a call back from the number that’s the spouse’s cell phone number, and they’ll say ‘see we have your husband or your wife. And we want this amount of money. And you have this amount of time to pay up. If you don’t pay up, we’re going to kill them,’” says Bowman. “And then you’ll hear screaming in the background like they’re actually torturing the spouse.”
Bowman says don’t fall for it. “Just hang up immediately. Give us a call and write down as much information as you got,” she says.
In addition, contact your loved ones and make sure they’re safe and sound.
But she notes it’s often not easy to refuse, and these scammers are very convincing. “It’s very scary to get that type of call and hear the screaming in the background and they’re very aggressive on the phone,” says Bowman.
This is very similar to another scam in which someone calls, and says your son, daughter, nephew or niece is in jail in a foreign country, and you’re asked to purchase a reloadable debit card to pay for their bail. In instances like that, the person receiving the call is urged to hang up. Then contact the family member to see if they’re okay.
No matter what the scam, police urge you to hang up. Don’t give out any information to those you don’t know, or wire any money to strangers. If you are the victim of this type of scam, report it to your local police. The Frederick Police non-emergency number is 301-600-2102.
By Kevin McManus