What to Know
Phone scammers are calling New Yorkers and claiming to have taken their family members hostage
The scammers say they'll shoot the detained relative if the victim doesn't pay up
The calls have been in the Syracuse area, but the New York attorney general is warning all New Yorkers of the scheme
Scammers are calling New Yorkers and threatening to kill their family members in a bid to extort money from them, the state’s attorney general warned Friday.
When a victim picks up the phone, the scammer tells them their relative has been in a car crash, is being held hostage, and will be shot if the victim doesn't pay up.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued a consumer alert Friday to notify New Yorkers of the scam.
The hustle goes like this: The caller claims the victim’s relative has been in a car accident with his nephew. The caller says he has taken the victim’s relative – often times a daughter, wife, niece, or mother – from the scene and is holding her hostage in a nearby house. The scammer then demands money from the victim, claiming his nephew doesn’t have insurance to pay bills related to the crash.
Schneiderman says the caller tries to scare the victim into paying by claiming to be a drug dealer or gang member.
In one instance, someone heard a woman crying in the background of a call, Schneiderman said.
To scare the victims even further, the scammers make reference to the victims’ names and addresses, and even name specific streets where the fake accident supposedly occurred.
The victims have all been in the Syracuse area and the scam calls appear to be coming from a Syracuse number, Schneiderman said.
So far, no one has been actually been kidnapped or injured, and none of the call victims have fallen for the swindle, according to Schneiderman.
Anyone who gets the scam is asked to call New York State Police at 1-800-GIVETIP.
AG's tips for avoiding falling victim to scammers:
• Never give out personal information to a stranger on the phone.
• Never wire money through Western Union, MoneyGram, or any other wire service to a stranger.
• Never purchase gift or money cards for the purpose of providing the gift card numbers to someone else.
• Immediately contact the police if you get a call like the one described here.