, Salem, MA

October 10, 2013

Police: Women targeted in hostage phone scams

By Neil H. Dempsey
Staff Writer

---- — SALEM — Police say two women reported having been targeted by so-called hostage scams on Wednesday — and that in one case, an officer was actually able to get on the phone with the con artist who had been demanding money.

The first scam was reported about 8 a.m., when a Salem Hospital employee told police that she’d received a phone call on her cellphone the night before from a male with a Spanish accent who told her “he was holding her brother” after a vehicle accident and would “kill him” unless she sent him $2,000, according to the incident log.

“He also told her not to call police,” wrote police.

The woman said she’d contacted family to see if her brother was OK — he was — and then called the male back and “told him he had the wrong person.”

An officer wrote: “She was advised that this is a scam that has been going on recently.”

The next report of the scam came in about 1:30 p.m., when a Forest Avenue woman told police she had received a phone call from somebody purporting to be her grandson, according to the incident log. The male said he was “in trouble in Los Angeles and needed bail money.”

The male then said he was putting his attorney on the line, and a male calling himself “Mr. Hill” told the woman he could get her grandson out of jail if she wired $1,950 to somewhere in Baltimore, Md.

The woman told the male that she needed some time to get the money together; the male said he would phone her back.

The woman called her son, determined her grandson was fine, then called police.

While Officer Lawrence Puleo was at her home taking the report, the man calling himself Mr. Hill phoned back. Puleo got on the phone and told the man to leave the family alone and that they had filed a report about the scam.

“Mr. Hill told this officer not to try and trace the call because the phone he was using was ‘going in the sewer,’” Puleo wrote. “No further problems ensued.”