Residents warned of hostage phone scam

LEWISTOWN – The Pennsylvania State Police is warning residents of hostage phone scam, of which they have identified at least six victims of as of Nov. 19.

Police said the victims are receiving phone calls from suspects saying one of the victim’s family members are in danger, the callers have stated the relative was either taken hostage or involved in a minor accident. According to the bulletin, during the phone calls, the suspect tells the victim they must pay $2,000 or their relative will be harmed. Police said the callers possessed some background information on the victims and in one incident, knew the victims’ brother’s name, work location and cellphone number.

For example:

A woman in Philadelphia received a phone call on her cellphone stating her father had been in an accident, refused to provide insurance information and was being held hostage at gunpoint until the caller received $1,000 to pay for the damage to his vehicle.

York County residents received calls stating that their relative had been taken hostage or had been involved in a crash. The residents were told to pay $2,000 or their relative would be harmed.

According to the bulletin, investigations into the various incidents have determined the calls originated from Puerto Rico and were made using a pre-paid cell phone. Police said although the calls emanate from outside the continental U.S., the caller ID on the victim’s phone typically displays a local number.

Police offer some recommendations to prevent this from happening:

Be suspicious of any stranger who calls and asks from money, regardless of the situation or stated reason.

Never provide strangers with personal information such as your social security number, birth date, credit card numbers, or address.

Do not wire transfer money to unknown individuals.

If you receive a suspicious phone call, contact your local law enforcement agency immediately.