In a spin-off of the notorious "Grandparent Scam," Saddle Brook police said a resident received a call on her cell phone Thursday from a Spanish-speaking man who said her son had been in a car accident in Florida and would be detained until a ransom had been paid.
Chief Bob Kugler said the caller demanded the woman give him her bank account number so he could withdraw the $3,500 necessary for her son's release.
Suspicious of the request, the woman -- while remaining on the line with the caller -- had a co-worker call her son's cell phone in Florida. The woman's son answered the call and verified that he had neither been in an accident nor was he being held against his will, police said.
Police are investigating the fraudulent call, which Kugler said originated from a 787 area code in Puerto Rico.
The incident bears a general similarity to a series of other incidents reported recently throughout the county that are being labeled, "Family Member Emergency" or "Grandparent" scams, because the caller claims to be a representative of a family member who is in urgent danger and requests that money be wired immediately to ensure that family member's safety.
Kugler said the callers often use real family names and request money be wired through Western Union or a similar service.
For that reason, he advised that any resident who receives a call about a family member in need always first verify with that family member or another trusted sources.
"If you are unable to contact or verify the safety of your family member, notify your local police department immediately for appropriate assistance and investigation before giving financial information or electronically sending money via Western Union," Kugler said.