Phone scam plagues panicked man

by Town Reminder

Police caution residents to be aware

By Kristin Will
Staff Writer

SOUTH HADLEY – A 27-year-old man believed his parents were held hostage after falling victim to a phone scam Sunday that put him out $400.
“The criminals play on the sympathy of people,” said South Hadley Police Chief David LaBrie. “Once your emotions are involved, you sometimes make hasty decisions.”
The South Hadley victim received a phone call on his cell phone from a local number Sunday afternoon informing him his father had been in a car accident.
Coincidently, the victim’s parents had left their home just five minutes earlier.
The scammers said the accident situation had gotten out of hand and wanted money to pay for injuries sustained to an acquaintance. The victim’s parents, they said, would be held hostage until thousands of dollars were wired to them.
Contact with anyone was forbidden. The scammers required the victim to stay on the phone with them the entire time.
Establishing some sort of credibility, the scammers happened to know or guess the color and make of the victim’s parents’ vehicle.
Terrified, and thinking his parents were going to die, the victim immediately wired $250 to the scammers at the Route 5 Western Union inside Stop & Shop in Holyoke as instructed.
They also demanded the victim purchase pre-paid phone cards and relay their verification number. One the victim had done so, the scammers said the victim’s parents would be released at Mercy Hospital.
The ordeal ended two hours later at 3:48 p.m. when the victim, parked at Mercy Hospital, texted a friend to drive to his parents’ residence to see if they were home. They were.
The victim subsequently hung up on the scammers.
“Residents should be cognizant of the fact scams are going on,” said South Hadley Police Lt. Steven Parentela.
The department, he said, receives calls reporting scams weekly. Residents call to report they were victims of a scam and call to report they had received a call but did not fall for it.
In any instance, Parentela said residents should follow these steps if they receive such calls.
First, they should ask to talk to their relative. If that does not pan out, ask for answers to questions only that relative would know.
Second, they should terminate the call and contact the relative in question.
“If they’re the one calling you, they [scammers] can call you back.” Said Parentela. If it’s a legit call, “they will call you back,” he said.
Finally, they should call police.