A phone extortion scam has been making the rounds in the North Reading area.
Calls or texts claim that a family member or loved one is being held captive and will be harmed unless the scammer is paid a specific sum of money.
Here is the information from North Reading Police about the scam and what you can do about it:
“The North Reading Police Department continues
to take reports from residents who appear to have been targeted by a prevalent
phone extortion scam. We continue to receive reports of this nature from local
residents. Several neighboring jurisdictions also report a similar pattern.
“In almost all cases, unknown person(s) have called or texted the victim and made 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 several cases, the party being held captive is alleged to have been in a motor vehicle accident that resulted in property damage that he/she is unable to pay for or personal injury to a third party, often times a relative of the caller.
“It is not uncommon for the caller to know basic details about the victim’s life, including names of family members, places of employment and school information. It is possible that this information is gathered through Internet searches or websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. In some cases, the caller phones several members of the same family, extracting information from one person that is then leveraged against a relative to increase the credibility of the caller’s claims.
“Victims are often told that if they hang up or contact the police or anyone else, harm will come to their loved one. This scam appears to target the Hispanic community and is known to be an issue in several other cities across the United States.
“Residents that receive a call similar to the above scheme are advised to:
• Attempt to contact the person that is allegedly being held captive and confirm their wellbeing.
• Ask the caller for specific information about where the family member is located.
• Have the caller physically describe the family member to see if the caller can provide some level of detail that could help confirm or dispel the claim.
• Note the phone number where the call or text originated and report the incident to the North Reading Police Department immediately.