Watch CBS News

Phone Scammers Target Local Residents With Threatening Calls Demanding Money

YAPHANK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Police are warning residents of Queens and Long Island to be wary of a sinister scam involving phone calls asking people to wire money to help a relative in trouble.

Jerri Noto, 56, of Astoria said a scammer got her brother's name out of her then said he was being held.

"Said he's in the back room and my brother has a gun to his head and if you don't come up with $2,000 in five minutes, he said my brother is gonna blow his brains out," Noto told CBS 2's John Slattery.

But instead of wiring the money, she had her son call the brother, who was in New Jersey and just fine. Police advise that a strange call about family and money should set off a scam alert.

In the past, in Wayne, N.J., a pair of grandparents got a call that their 18-year-old grandson was in jail and needed $2,800 bail. Instead, the grandmother called police.

And Nora Coniglio of Mineola was thrilled to get a call saying she had won $285,000 in a sweepstakes, but first had to wire 1 percent to pay the taxes. Instead, she called her son and didn't pay.

In Suffolk County, there have been more than a dozen such reports in the last three days. Most of them about bogus accidents.

"A scammer will call the house, say your son, daughter, fill in the blank, 'was involved in a car accident, they damaged my car. I want $1,000. If you don't do that, we'll kill him."" said Suffolk County Police Lt. Edward Reilly.

Common targets are the elderly to bail out a relative.

"'Your grandson has been arrested for marijuana. He needs bail money. He's afraid to call his parents,'" said Reilly.

Police said if you get such a call, you should independently verify the relative's whereabouts and shouldn't give out personal information over the phone.

Police said the calls, which has been prevalent over the last several months, are made randomly, with the scammer seldom knowing who will answer the phone.

Share your thoughts in the comments section below...

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.