Schneiderman issues consumer alert warning New Yorkers of extortion telephone scam
Syracuse-area consumers report telephone scammers threatening to harm relatives if they do not pay ransom; Schneiderman urges New Yorkers to report potential threats to state police, offers tips to protect consumers
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman issued a consumer alert notifying New Yorkers of a new scam in which calls are received from potential fraudsters who threaten to harm the New Yorkers’ family members if they do not pay a ransom. New Yorkers should immediately contact the state police at 1-800-GIVETIP.
The Attorney General’s office has received several reports in recent days of Syracuse-area residents receiving a call from someone falsely claiming that his or her relative has been in an accident that resulted in injury to the scammer’s nephew. The scammer claims to have taken the victim’s relative—often a daughter, wife, niece or mother—from the scene of the accident to a nearby house. The scammerthen demands money from the mark, claiming that the injured nephew does not have any insurance to pay related bills.
The scammer tries to scare the potential victim into cooperating by claiming to be a drug dealer or gang member. In at least one instance, a woman was heard crying in the background of the call. The scammer makes the call seem even more personal by referencing the parties’ names and, in some instances, their addresses. In addition, the call appears to come from a Syracuse number and the scammer references specific Syracuse streets for the site of the accident. In at least one call, the scammer tried to arrange for the consumer to make a payment on Fayette Street in Syracuse. When the victims hesitated to cooperate, the scammer threatened to shoot their relatives. Fortunately, none of the consumers who reported receiving this call paid the scammers any money and no relatives were actually involved in an accident, kidnapped or harmed.
“These scammers are preying on New Yorkers’ worst fears in a shameful attempt to turn a quick buck,” said Schneiderman. “I’m asking all New Yorkers to be on high alert and to contact the police immediately if they receive such a call.”
“We have no tolerance for criminals who prey on the emotions of victims is order to steal their money,” said State Police Superintendent George P. Beach, II. “We will aggressively and thoroughly investigate any such report and bring those responsible to justice.”
Extortion scams are designed to trick victims into paying money to free someone they love from potential harm. In addition to this new scam reported in the Syracuse area, the attorney general urges New Yorkers to be aware of other scams, such as the grandparent scam, the kidnapping scam and the IRS scam, which are all designed to frighten victims into making a payment. The resulting harm to people can be devastating. In many cases, victims end up losing a significant portion of their savings.
Tips to avoid falling victim
If the caller is a stranger, be alert. Be aware that this type of extortion scam depends on fear. The scammer knows they need to work quickly to obtain your money because you may try to take steps, even while on the phone with the scammer, to figure out if your relative is in actual danger. Scammers will try to keep you on the line.
- 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.