Scammers tried to convince at least two Whatcom County residents that their family members –who were identified by name – were being held hostage after a car crash Friday morning, according to the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office.
Neither person paid the “ransom” money, though one almost lost thousands of dollars in the hoax.
A resident of the Blaine area got the first call at 9:25 a.m., when a cold caller claimed the resident’s son and daughter had been hurt in a car crash, according to the sheriff’s office.
The man on the phone named the children, and claimed one of them had been taken hostage. He demanded $4,500 and told the resident not to call 911. A second caller got on the line and ordered the father to wire the cash via MoneyGram.
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The resident drove about 20 miles to Walmart in Bellingham and got a MoneyGram order, but ended the transaction before giving out a code to confirm the transfer. Instead he contacted his kids, who confirmed they weren’t in a car crash or being held hostage.
Authorities said the area code for the call showed up as 503, the code for the Portland and northwest Oregon.
Before noon a Ferndale resident received a nearly identical call: the victim’s brother had been in a car crash and was being held hostage. The caller demanded money via MoneyGram. But the resident contacted the brother, who hadn’t been in a car crash.
In both cases the callers were “very convincing,” according to the sheriff’s office: They used real names of family members, preyed on emotions, and claimed someone would come to meet them in person after the MoneyGram had been sent.
Sheriff Bill Elfo advised residents to never give out financial info to an unsolicited caller.