Police in New Jersey are warning residents about a wire fraud scam in which an anonymous caller demands ransom money for a kidnapped loved one.
The latest incident occurred in South Brunswick Thursday, police said. A father received a phone call on his cell phone from a person stating his son had gotten into a car accident, and the caller threatened to hold the son until the father paid for the vehicle damages through Western Union.
The caller told the man his son was injured and the son would be taken to the closest hospital after the money was wired, according to police. The caller added that he had the son's cell phone and if the father tried to call his cell phone, the caller would immediately kill the son.
The father was on the phone for over an hour before he was able to wire the money, police said. After the money was wired, the father was told to go to a New Brunswick hospital.
Once the father arrived at the hospital, the caller disconnected the call. The father was unable to locate his son at the hospital, and when he called his son's cell phone he learned there had never been an accident.
"They had to have some knowledge of the people they were calling," said South Brunswick Police Detective Sgt. Jim Ryan of the scammers. "They called this gentleman's cell phone. They knew he had a son. They had some facts about him. How he got them, we're not sure."
Perth Amboy Police are reporting similar cases over the past several days, and Jersey City Police and Bergen County authorities reported similar scams in September and October.
All the cases appear to originate from a Puerto Rico area code. In Perth Amboy, the victims' numbers start with the same seven digits, including the area code. In most cases, the suspect demanded $1,800.
Anyone should report suspicious activity to local police.