The Boston Police Department recently received reports relative to a phone extortion scam targeting community members and is issuing a community alert in hopes of protecting, educating and informing community members on the appropriate steps to take if a phone scammer targets or calls them.
HERE’S WHAT WE KNOW: There are a couple scenarios to be aware of. In SCENARIO #1, the scammer calls or texts the victim making claims that a family member or loved one is being held captive and will be harmed or held until the victim pays a specific sum of money. In SCENARIO #2, the scammer asserts that a family member has been involved in a motor vehicle accident resulting in property damage/personal injury that requires immediate compensation or reimbursement. The scammer issues an ultimatum demanding payment in exchange for the family member's release. If payments aren't made, the family member remains captive. In SCENARIO #3, the scammer calls from what appears to be a disguised Boston Police phone number and claims to be a member of the “State Bureau of Investigation” inquiring about your identity.
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR: Know this, the scammer will sound convincing. The scammer usually has or knows some basic details about your life, including names of family members, places of employment and school information. Please be advised that information like the aforementioned may sound like a lot when mentioned together, but, when one considers how easily it can be ascertained or gleaned from a person’s Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account, it’s not as impressive as first thought. In some cases, the scammer will have made phone calls to several members of the same family, extracting new information from each conversation that is then leveraged against you to increase the believability of the scammer’s claims.
WHEN YOU KNOW SOMETHING IS WRONG: As soon as the scammer threatens to harm you or your family member, it’s time to hang up the phone and call police. Victims are often told that if they hang up or contact the police, harm will come to their loved one. This simply isn’t true and, again, should serve as one of the primary red flags that you’re being scammed. The other obvious red flag involves money demands. Any money demands, especially ones where the scammer requests funds be sent via MoneyGram or Western Union is another tell-tale sign of a fraud. This activity also includes any request for the purchase of stored value cards (i.e. Green Dot).
HERE’S WHAT TO DO IF A PHONE SCAMMER CALLS YOU:
Hang up the phone. You control the call. If you sense you’re being scammed, hang up.
After you terminate the call, try to call the person that is allegedly being held captive in an effort to confirm their well-being. If you call and they answer, all is good.
If you stay on the line, have the scammer physically describe the family member in question to see if the caller can provide some level of detail that could help confirm or dispel their claim.
Lastly, note the phone number where the call or text originated and report the incident to the Boston Police Department immediately. As mentioned before, the scammer only has a limited amount of information. So, the more you ask, the less they'll likely be able to provide.
In addition to filing a report with the Boston Police Department, victims are also encouraged to report any Phone/Internet Fraud Scams to the Federal Trade Commission. Please call the FTC at 1(877) FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or TTY 1-866-653-4261 or visit their website at: www.consumer.ftc.gov/scam-alerts