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Anne Arundel County Police Department - Western District
Tuesday February 4th, 2014 :: 01:53 p.m. EST


Regionally people are receiving very freighting telephone calls in which the caller purports to be holding a relative for ransom. Several versions of this scam have been observed and are outlined below:

1. Grandparents receive a call that their grandchild has been arrested and can avoid charges if a certain amount of money is paid. Failure to pay will result in long term incarceration and major legal expenses. The victim is directed to wire money to a Western Union account or some other money transfer system.

2. Victim receives a telephone call that their relative (spouse, child, grandchild, sibling) has been kidnapped and being held for ransom. If authorities are alerted the relative will be killed. Again victims are directed to wire money.

3. Victim receives a telephone call that their relative (spouse, child, grandchild, sibling) has been involved in a motor vehicle accident. The caller claims to be a “gang member” and demands immediate repair expenses in exchange for the relative’s safe release. Once again victims are directed to wire money.

There are a number of additional variations on these scams. The telephone numbers that call are often “spoofed”

What is spoofing?

Public telephone networks provide Caller ID information, which includes the caller's name and number, with each call. However, some technologies allow callers to forge Caller ID information and present false names and numbers. Gateways between networks that allow such spoofing and other public networks then forward that false information.

In some incidents the main number to a local police department is spoofed to make it appear the police are really calling.

Often the caller will know specific information about your family, which is easily obtained from any number of information tracking sites on the internet.

First of all, be aware of these scams and be very cautious of any rash or emotional responses. One simple way to identify whether you are being scammed is to “Google” the telephone number calling you. In some cases you will see hundreds of scam postings about that particular number. Another is a simple emergency code word set up by your family. It could be as simple as a street or pet name. Demand the caller talk with the person being held and have them provide the danger code word.

In the event you sincerely believe your family member is being held, contact the nearest law enforcement agency or the FBI immediately.


Anne Arundel County Police Department - Western District
8273 Telegraph Rd
Odenton, MD 21113

Emergency: 9-1-1

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