Detectives from the Montgomery County Police Department – Financial Crimes Section continue to warn residents of telephone scams following the report of at least six incidents since February 20. The department believes that these cases are related.
Summaries of six recent cases reported to the department are as follows:
February 20 – A Rockville resident received a call asking if she had a son. When she replied, “Yes”, the caller stated that her son was in a car accident and had been kidnapped. The suspect told the victim that her son would be killed unless the victim wired money. The suspect told the victim not to call police. The victim transferred money via wire transfer to Florida and Puerto Rico.
February 21 – An Aspen Hill resident received a call that his brother had been shot. The resident did not believe the caller and began to ask probing questions. The suspect hung up the phone after realizing the resident did not believe the story.
February 23 – A Montgomery Village resident received a call that his son and brother had been in a car accident. The caller stated that the son and brother were being held hostage until the resident paid for damages to the other person’s vehicle. The resident told the suspect he was calling police and ended the call. The resident was able to verify that his brother was safe.
February 23 – A Silver Spring resident received a call asking if the resident had a brother or son. When the resident replied that he had a son, the caller stated that the son was involved in a car accident. The caller told the resident that the son was being held hostage until the resident wired money to pay for car damage. The resident hung up the phone and called 911. The resident’s son was safe and unharmed.
February 24 – A Rockville couple received a call stating that their son was involved in a car accident. The caller stated that the son had been struck with a gun, tied up, and taken to an apartment. The caller said that if the parents ever wanted to see their son again, they had to wire money to Florida. The couple wired money before realizing that their son was safe and that the call was a scam.
March 2 – A Silver Spring resident received a call that his loved one had been kidnapped after a car accident. The resident was told he needed to wire money to Puerto Rico to cover damage to the vehicle. The resident called 911. The loved one was safe.
The suspect (caller) in these incidents has called from the same phone number. Although the number appears to be a local number, Financial Crimes detectives have determined that these calls have originated from outside of the country. Telephone scammers often use a technique called “spoofing” to manipulate and provide a fictitious number to a Caller ID display.
These types of phone scams are not unique to Montgomery County and have been reported in neighboring jurisdictions and around the country. Generally speaking, the scammer tells the victim that a family member or friend of the victim is in trouble or needs help. Scammers present a variety of emergency situations in these calls, to include a loved one who is in jail, has been in an accident, or has been physically hurt. The suspect often states that the event has occurred in another area and that the loved one is unable to talk. To assist in helping the family or friend, the victim is required to send money via wire transfer or other fund transfer (ie: pre-paid cards, internet transaction). In November of 2012, the Financial Crimes Section received reports of scammers posing as victims’ grandchildren. (Click here for complete press release: Friendship Heights Residents Warned of Telephone Scam).
What you can do to protect yourself from telephone scams:
Do not provide information over the phone. Scammers often ask leading questions to retrieve information from you. Often, you do not realize that you are giving them valuable information.
Scammers create a sense of urgency. Slow down and ask the caller for detailed information and a contact number. Tell the caller you will call them back. Then, attempt to verify the caller’s story by calling family and/or friends.
Remember that scammers often use a technique called “spoofing.” Spoofing provides a fictitious number to a Caller ID display.
Do not send money.
Most importantly, contact police immediately if you believe you are a victim of a telephone scam.