Planet Princeton

Telephone Scam Targets Princeton Area Residents

phonescam-Chris-Johnson-Government-Grant-Funding-ExpertA scammer is calling Princeton area residents claiming a family member is in trouble, and the person will be killed unless money is wired to the caller.

A couple  in downtown Princeton is the latest to receive a call from a man who said the couple’s son would be killed unless the couple gave him $1,500. The couple received the call on a family cell phone today.

“The man had an elaborate story about how our son had run his car into his nephew while his nephew was working on his car, which was jacked up, causing the car to fall on his nephew and break his nephew’s neck. He said he had then gone after our son, who had tried to get away, and caught him at a stoplight,” the resident told Planet Princeton “He said the brother was holding our son and was threatening to shoot him. He said since the nephew was wanted for murder, they needed to work through back channels to pay for his hospital care. They wanted us to pay through Western Union.”

The man threatened to kill the son if the money was not wired, and also warned the couple not to try to text or call their son. Even though the couple said the call sounded crazy in hindsight, at the time the couple was alarmed and thought it was slightly plausible that the son had been in an accident.

“It was very scary before we got in touch with our son,” the resident said.

The phone number is a local number that has been reported for scam calls in the past. Others have reported similar calls from the same number. The number also comes up on Craigslist for an ad for free puppies.

The couple has reported the incident to the police.

A South Brunswick man fell for the scam last year. Similar calls have been reported in neighboring towns. Police departments across the country have issued warnings about such calls. In 2012, a Wyckoff couple paid $15,000 to a caller who claimed their son was in an accident and was being held at gunpoint.  In other scenarios, the scam artist says that the family member has been arrested and needs money for bail, or that the family owes someone money. The victim is asked to withdraw money from the ATM, and wire the money according to the caller’s instructions.

Police have reported in the past that the victims are randomly selected, and people are often tricked into sending the money.

Tips from Law Enforcement Experts

– Remain calm and use another phone if possible to call and check on the well-being of your family member.

– Call police immediately and report the incident. Provide as much information as possible.

– Record the telephone number of the caller.

– Remember that callers demanding money to be wired is a major red flag.

Krystal Knapp

Krystal Knapp is the founding editor of Planet Princeton. She can be reached via email at editor AT planetprinceton.com. Send all letters to the editor and press releases to that email address.

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