Residents are being targeted by a wave of scam phone calls demanding ransom for the falsely reported kidnapping of loved ones -- and some have fallen for the fake calls.
Local police dispatchers report they have been getting a "noticeable" number of inquiries locally about phone calls from "kidnappers" demanding ransom be paid for a family member's release.
The caller is male, with some type of accent, who tells the call recipient that a relative is being held hostage, according to the reports. The caller then demands around $2,000 in cash, and adds that failure to pay could result in the "kidnap victim" being hurt or even killed.
During a two-day period last week, police said they received reports of about 10 such ransom calls. The calls are usually made from the number 203-260-7349, though one came from 203-218-0501, police said.
Police warn people inquiring about the ransom calls that they are a scam.
On Saturday, a Garden Court resident came to police headquarters to report that he had been scammed out of $1,000.
He told police he noticed a missed call on his phone, and when he dialed the number, a man with a heavy Spanish accent told him his father had been in accident and to wire $1,000 to Pennsylvania.
The victim -- who posted a video on YouTube about the incident -- went to the Western Union counter at Super Stop & Shop on Villa Avenue and wired the money. After he did, he called his father and learned he was at his home in Ansonia and had not been in an accident.
Two more attempts to scam money were reported to police Monday.
In the first, a 73-year-old Sunset Avenue woman said she got a call from a man claiming to be "Officer Landry" of the "13th Precinct." He told the woman that her granddaughter was in custody -- he said she was a passenger in a car involved in a narcotics arrest. A female claiming to be the granddaughter then got on the phone and asked the Fairfield woman for $2,000 to get out of jail.
The victim said the callers knew her granddaughter's name. She was instructed to purchase four pre-paid Green Dot cards at Rite Aid pharmacy, in increments of $500 each. She said she would do so as soon as her son got home. According to the report, the son purchased the cards, but when they tried to call back each of the two phone numbers, neither was in service any longer.
She then contacted her granddaughter who, she discovered, was fine and at school.
The phone numbers used in that scam were 438-989-5256 and 438-937-4002, police said.
In the second incident, a Cross Highway man said he got a call from a man with a heavy accent, who told him that his brother, Peter, was being held hostage and would be shot. The intended victim told the caller he did not have a brother named Peter. When he called the number back, he got a recording that the voice mailbox was full. The call came from 203-218-0501, police said.