Posted: 5:41 p.m. Monday, April 29, 2013

Police warn of new phone scam that uses fear to get cash

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Phone scam

KISSIMMEE, Fla. —

Kissimmee police say a phone scam is on the rise and it scares people into thinking a loved one needs help.

Channel 9's Nancy Alvarez spoke to a young woman who got the kind of call that most people would dread.

The call that terrified the woman began with a question: "Do you have a brother?"

"I said, 'Yeah, I have a brother.' 'Well, your brother hit my car.' And that's when you start to panic," said the woman, who did not want her identity revealed.

She said she is afraid because she doesn't know who was on the line telling her that her brother was being held at gunpoint and would be shot if she didn't send money to repair the caller's Mercedes. During the call, she could hear someone moaning as if in pain in the background.

"He said, 'You're going to listen to what I have to say, and the longer you take the less time you have," said the woman.

The scammer kept the victim on the phone, screaming and cursing at her for almost an hour. In that time, she got in the car, drove to an ATM, and then to a second stop where she wired $4500 to Puerto Rico.

"Because they drive so much fear into you, you don't have time to think. You just think, 'I'm going to give these people what they want,'" she said.

"It's just so random, you never know. You could get a call tomorrow," said Stacie Miller of the Kissimmee Police Department.

Miller said the scam is growing fast. She said the department has taken at least 30 reports in the last four months. 

Detectives believe the callers are outside the country using pre-paid phones with blocked numbers that are difficult to trace. So the department is trying to tackle the problem by warning the public.

"If they don't have victims, they're going to go away. So we're trying to remind people, don't fall for it. Remain calm.  And do not send money," said Miller.

Investigators said, at first it seemed the scammers were targeting the Hispanic community and telling lies involving a family member in another country. They said that may not be the case anymore.

The police department has started a public service campaign to raise awareness about the scam.

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