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It's Happened Again: Police In New Jersey Warn Of Hostage-Taking Scam

FAIR LAWN, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- Beware of a phone scam flim flam involving phony kidnappers claiming to hold a loved one hostage.

A man in Fair Lawn fell for the trick.

What happened next triggered a massive police response.

Police In New Jersey Warn Of Hostage Taking Scam

A caller said "I have your brother-in-law. Stay on the phone. Go to the bank and get $800."

The man remained quiet, but handed notes to the teller at the Chase bank on Saddle River Road. He wanted to alert the police.

"He started writing notes to the teller, 'the person on the phone has my brother, ransom, hostage, please call the police when I leave,'" Fair Lawn Police Sgt. Richard Schultz told CBS 2's Tony Aiello.

They came in force thinking it was a heist.

They took the unidentified man into custody then released him after figuring out he was the victim. The brother-in-law was never in any danger.

Schultz told WCBS 880 reporter Sean Adams that this is not an isolated incident.

"Within an hour or two, we had three calls, similar nature, where they said they had a family member. They held them hostage. They're looking for ransom," Schultz said.

As CBS 2's Aiello reported, this latest attempt was similar to a scam phone call about a kidnapped brother recorded by a Jersey City woman last fall.

"My cousin took out a gun and broke his head, you see? He and his friend, James is fine, all right?  I'm gonna let them go, both of them. I'm gonna let them go, all right? If the money is available, I will let your brother go, all right?" the scammer said on the call.

Police said these phone scams are a growing problem, so what can you do to protect yourself? One piece of advice, police said, is if you get a phone call from an area code and phone number you don't recognize, don't answer the phone.

"Let it go to your voicemail. You can always call people back. If it's a scam, a robocall, a phishing expedition, they're not gonna leave a message anyway," Schultz said.

It's one way to hang up on phone fraud.

Fair Lawn police said at least two other residents got kidnap scam phone calls on Thursday, originating from phones registered in Maryland and Illinois. Police said there have been similar scams in Hudson and Middlesex counties and across the country.

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