MIAMI (CBS4) — What would you do if you received a phone call from someone who said, “We’ve kidnapped your brother, or your son or your wife and if you don’t come up with $5,000 in the next hour and deliver it to us – he’ll die?”
It’s a frightening scam you need to know about the next time you answer the phone.
“He told me if I hang up the phone he was going to put a bullet in his leg, and he’ll call me back, if I don’t pick up he’ll kill him,” explained Michael Santiago who received a call and for 32 frightening minutes believed his brother Alex was being held hostage.
“I was here at work and got a random call from a 305 number. He told me he has my brother. I asked him where he was, what happened to my brother.”
The voice on the other end of the call said Alex hit a man on a motorcycle with his car and fled the scene. The caller tracked him down and beat Alex up.
“They pulled him out of the car and hit him over the head with a bat. His head was split open and he needed stitches,” Michael said.
“Basically all we are asking for are the damages to the motorcycle. It was two-grand,” said Michael.
Finally, Michael was able to reach his brother.
“My brother is my brother. He’s all I have so I was willing to do whatever I needed to do to get him back.”
It turned out, Alex was safe and the entire ordeal was a scam.
“It’s a scam that revisits itself every couple of years,” said Officer Kelly Denham from the Coral Gables Police Department. That’s where Michael filed his report and Denham said it’s nothing new to law enforcement.
“This scam started in 1998 in Puerto Rico,” Denham said.
In the first 7 months of the year the Coral Gables PD has reported 44 similar cases to Michael’s. The victims are random; even police officers have gotten the call.
“This past weekend we even had our police officers targeted, but they are aware and when someone hasn’t heard of the scam it’s a very believable story,” Denham said.
The FBI is called in on extortion and kidnapping cases. They’ve seen a surge as well, but more so online.
“Over the last year or so we’re getting one or two a month however we’re getting one reported on the internet at least once a week,” FBI Special Agent Michael Leverock said.
So what should you do in case you get the call?
“Don’t provide them with personal information, and go ahead and call your relative, try and seek it out, but if something does seem amiss you can always call your local police department,” Denham said.
The best thing you could do if you do receive a call and believe it’s a hoax, police say simply, hang up.