A Rockville woman was the victim of a phone scam in which a caller told her that her son had been kidnapped after an accident and would be killed unless she sent money, according to Montgomery County police.
Instructed not to call police, the victim complied, wiring money to Florida and Puerto Rico. The son had not been in an accident and had never been in danger. The scammer is still at large.
Montgomery County police have linked the incident to at least two others:
On Feb. 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. Police said the suspect hung up after realizing the resident did not believe the story.
On Feb. 23, a Montgomery Village resident received a call that his son and brother had been in a car accident and that they were being held hostage until the resident paid for damage 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.
Police said the suspect in all three incidents called from the same phone number. Investigators said though the calls appear to be from a local number, they originated from outside the country.
Police: Phone Scam Not New to Montgomery County
Police said these scams are not new to Montgomery County and have been reported nearby. In November, police received reports in Friendship Heights of scammers posing as victims’ grandchildren.
Generally speaking, the scammer tells the victim that a family member or friend of the victim is in trouble or needs help. He or she asks leading questions in order to retrieve personal information, creating a sense of urgency. To assist in helping the family or friend, the scammer tells the victim to send money.
Through a method known as “spoofing,” a fake local-looking number will appear on the caller ID.
Police are urging residents not to give out information over the phone, to verify the caller’s story by taking with family or friends, and not to send money.