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Darien Police alerting community about kidnapping scam

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DARIEN–A kidnapping scam is plaguing Darien, and police are warning residents to be wary.

On Thursday, Darien Police reported that while phone scams are a daily, common occurrence, one resident was on the receiving end of a particularly scary scam Thursday morning.

The resident, who is a parent of a Darien High School student, got a call saying his or her child was kidnapped, and that the caller has the child. The victim could even hear someone crying in the background. In this case the victim was lucky and was able to verify his or her child was safe while speaking with dispatchers, and the victim did not end up losing any money.

However, Darien Police did set up a scenario in their message to the public about how these scams often go:

The victim is told not to get off the phone, since that gives the victim the chance to call and check if the loved one is safe. After telling the victim to not hang up and also to not call police, the caller tells the parent to drive to an ATM and take out a large sum of cash–often several hundred dollars.

Officers say it is common for scammers to say they will torture the child unless the victim complies with all requests.

The victim is then instructed to meet the scammer at a retail location in the area, saying they will release the child upon receiving the money. Then the scammer doesn’t show up, and changes the game, asking for the money to be wired. As soon as the money is sent, the scammer hangs up.

The victim may try calling the scammer back to no avail, and eventually realizes his or her child was safe and never in danger, and the victim learns he or she had been taken advantage of.

“It is understandable why people cooperate, especially when the ransom price is relatively low,” Darien Police said in the statement, but warned that the money is usually not recoverable.

Here are some tips Darien Police say can help you avoid being scammed:

  • Do memorize or keep a written list of family cell phone numbers that can be easily accessed if your cell phone is in use.
  • Don’t provide family information over the telephone. Simply responding to a simple question like “Do you have a daughter?” can trigger a kidnapping scam.
  • Do attempt to identify the location of the caller as well as the family member that has purportedly been kidnapped. The scammer may be unfamiliar with the local area.
  • Do ask specific questions to assess the validity of the call. Asking the hostage to describe your family member may prompt the caller to stop the scam and hang up.
  • Do notify the local police as soon as possible, even when instructed not to.
  • Do save the incoming telephone number along with any text messages, voicemails, or photographs sent by the caller.
  • Don’t panic; this scam feeds on fear. By remaining calm and rational, you may be able to figure out that the call is a hoax.