The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

February 2, 2013

Ransom demand latest scam to bedevil Ashtabula County

By MARK TODD - mtodd@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

JEFFERSON — The latest telephone scam to plague Ashtabula County apparently takes a more ominous tone with victims, using threats instead of trickery to pry money from wallets.

On Friday, the Sheriff’s Office issued a warning to the community about the new scam, saying deputies have received “several” complaints from would-be victims. How does it differ from previous scams? This version taps into people’s fears instead of their greed, officials said.

Lt. Terry A. Moisio explained how the scam works: A call is received from someone who claims “that someone, usually a relative, is kidnapped or in jail and money is demanded for their release.” In some cases, calls are placed by pranksters, while in other instances money is demanded, Moisio said.

Deputies have also learned return numbers the scammers provide or appear on the victim’s caller ID are computer generated and belong to “unsuspecting individuals not part of the scam,” Moisio said. Because of those call-back numbers, it was initially thought the scam was based in northeast Ohio, officials said.

However, investigators — using tracking devices — learned Friday the calls originated in Puerto Rico, Moisio said.

Deputies advise everyone to ignore the calls and under no circumstances should money be sent to the caller, Moisio said. Never provide personal information or banking numbers to anyone over the telephone.

The sheriff’s office began receiving complaints this past week, Moisio said. As far as deputies know, no local people contacted by the scammers have sent money, he said.