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Bogota chief: Don’t fall for ‘kidnapped family member’ phone scam

PUBLIC SAFETY: Amid of flurry of potentially frightening phone calls, Bogota Police Chief John C. Burke is warning citizens about scammers who demand cash in return for the release of a relative who couldn’t pay for car crash damages.

“We’ve gotten a couple of calls and had residents come to headquarters saying they’ve gotten these calls lately,” Burke told CLIFFVIEW PILOT tonight.

The caller, who speaks either in Spanish or with a Spanish accident, claims he was involved in a car accident with the victim in or around New York City, the chief said.

Because the victim couldn’t afford to pay for the damage, the caller says, he’s “holding the person captive, with weapons, until the family member can go to the bank, withdraw money and head to the nearest Western Union,” Burke said.

The amounts ordinarily are in the low thousands, and the purported kidnapper demands that the cash be wired to Puerto Rico or somewhere else outside the U.S, the chief said.

“This is an ongoing thing,” Burke said, adding that, so far, no one he knows has fallen for it.

“They’ll usually say that the victim was on the way to work,” the chief said. “Most of them actually do work, so the family members aren’t about to contact them immediately to confirm or deny what happened.”

Bogota police will continue to investigate and verify each and every report, he said.

“If you’re unsure whether something like this is true or not, contact your local police department immediately,” Burke said. “Also try calling your relative.

“Whatever you do, don’t give your money away. We don’t want to see anybody get ripped off.”

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