DOBSON — Authorities are saying a new, personalized scam has been leaving would-be victims distraught for more than two weeks, since it surfaced in the area.
A scammer or group of scammers are now calling folks claiming those would-be victims have a family member who is in some sort of distress, according to Sheriff Graham Atkinson. Atkinson said the person on the other end of the line is asking for money in order to make the family member’s problem go away.
Atkinson said scammers are calling people from a phone number which appears to be local. Once a would-be victim is on the line, the scammer describes a dire situation in which a loved one has found themselves. Every call is different, with situations ranging from abductions to car accidents.
“One example is a person got a phone call stating a family member had been in a wreck,” described Atkinson. “Then they (the scammer) said the other person involved in the wreck was going to kill the family member if they didn’t pay them.”
Atkinson said each call is basically the same. A family member has a life-threatening problem, and it will cost money to make it go away.
The sheriff said it’s a new scam in a long list of phone call scams. He also said it’s going on statewide.
“We’ve reached out to law enforcement agencies around the state,” said Atkinson. “This is happening all over.”
Scammers tell those on the other end of the line they must make an electronic funds transfer of some sort. Atkinson said witnesses have described scammers as Hispanic males.
He also said — whoever they are — they are pretty convincing.
“They’ll give just enough information to make it believable,” remarked Atkinson.
Atkinson went on to say scammers gather additional information, such as family member names, as the conversation develops. He also said scammers will call all members of a group cell phone plan, alerting an entire family to the hoax situation.
Atkinson said the dollar figure for which scammers demand differs with each call but is large while not unattainable.
The sheriff said he doesn’t know of anybody who has fallen victim to the scam as of Monday morning.
“The best way to deal with the scammers is to hang up the phone and report the interaction to local law enforcement,” cautioned Atkinson.
He said any excess time spent on the phone could lead to a person being talked into believing the scammer.
As is the case with most phone scams, Atkinson said the chances of bringing anybody to justice are relatively slim.
“The scam is likely international,” explained Atkinson. “The odds of prosecuting anybody aren’t very good.”
Andy is a staff writer for The Mount Airy News and can be reached at 415-4698.