Police Department

INFO: Cambridge Police Warn Residents about Phone Scam

Similar reports seen in neighboring communities


10/1/2013

Cambridge Police wish to share the following information from the Boston Police Department as we have received similar reports in our community:

Police continue to take reports from residents who appear to have been targeted by a prevalent phone extortion scam.  Nearly 60 separate incidents have been reported in Boston in 2013, including 46 since July 1.  Several neighboring jurisdictions, including Cambridge, also report a similar pattern.

In almost all cases, unknown person(s) have called or texted the victim and made claims that a family member or loved one is being held captive and will be harmed or held until the victim pays a specific sum of money.  In several cases, the party being held captive is alleged to have been in a motor vehicle accident that resulted in property damage that he/she is unable to pay for or personal injury to a third party, often times a relative of the caller.

It is not uncommon for the caller to know basic details about the victim’s life, including names of family members, places of employment and school information.  It is possible that this information is gathered through internet searches or websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  In some cases, the caller phones several members of the same family, extracting information from one person that is then leveraged against a relative to increase the credibility of the caller’s claims. 

Victims are often told that if they hang up or contact the police or anyone else, harm will come to their loved one.  This scam appears to target the Hispanic community and is known to be an issue in several other cities across the United States.

Residents that receive a call similar to the above scheme are advised to:

  • Attempt to contact the person that is allegedly being held captive and confirm their wellbeing.
  • Ask the caller for specific information about where the family member is located. 
  • Have the caller physically describe the family member to see if the caller can provide some level of detail that could help confirm or dispel the claim. 
  • Note the phone number where the call or text originated and report the incident to the Cambridge Police Department 617-349-3300 immediately.
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Richard C. Rossi
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Lisa C. Peterson
Deputy City Manager