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Hostage scammers target Park Slope woman

The Brooklyn Paper
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Scammers tried to extort a woman in Park Slope on Jan. 28 by claiming they had kidnapped her best friend, according to police.

The con artists called their victim, an employee of New York Methodist Hospital, at 12:09 pm and informed her that they had taken her friend and would kill the friend if she did not immediately wire them $1,700 via Western Union, cops said.

The victim quickly found out that her friend was safe and sound, but she soon received another fraudulent call, this time from someone claiming to be a cop and asking for her exact location, police said. That call freaked her out so much that she was afraid for her life, and the woman immediately notified actual police, a report says.

The phone calls appeared to be part of a growing trend of hoaxers trying to extort people by claiming that they will harm their loved ones. The scheme has become so prevalent that the Federal Bureau of Investigation released a statement in January warning New Yorkers not to fall for it.

“This is a scheme that takes advantage of some of the most vulnerable people in New York City,” Bureau honcho George Venizelos said. “We need the public to be aware of this scam and call us if they have been a victim.”

The statement advised people to consider the following steps if they receive a similar call:

Try to slow the situation down. Request to speak to the hostage directly. Ask, “How do I know my loved one is okay?”

If the callers don’t let you speak to the victim, ask them to describe the hostage or describe the vehicle they drive, if applicable.

Listen carefully to the voice of the hostage if they speak.

Attempt to call, text-message, or contact the hostage via social media. Request that the hostage call back from his or her cell phone.

While staying on the line with the supposed kidnappers, try to call the hostage from another phone.

To buy time, repeat the caller’s request and tell him or her you are writing down the demand, or that you need time to get things moving.

Don’t directly challenge or argue with the caller. Keep your voice low and steady.

Request that the kidnapped victim call back from his/her cell phone.

A hostage call might be a scam if it fits some of the following patterns:

Incoming calls come from an outside area code, sometimes from Puerto Rico, which has the area codes 787, 939 and 856.

Calls do not come from the kidnapped victim’s phone.

Callers go to great lengths to keep you on the phone.

Callers prevent you from calling or locating the “kidnapped” victim.

Ransom money is only accepted via wire transfer service.

Reach reporter Noah Hurowitz at nhurowitz@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–4505. Follow him on Twitter @noahhurowitz
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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