What initially sounded like a dire incident last Friday afternoon turned out to be a scam, in which an unknown telephone caller sought to persuade the person called that one of the person’s relatives was being held hostage at gunpoint after an accident, and then demanded ransom from the person receiving the call.
Police Detective Lieutenant Richard Robinson said that police received a report on the matter from the Stop & Shop supermarket at Sand Hill Plaza at 228 South Main Street on Friday, March 7.
Police received a telephone call from the store reporting the situation at 2:05 pm. Five police officers responded.
Police checked out the situation and determined that it was a ruse to illegally cheat or swindle a person of money, Lt Robinson said.
The lieutenant did not disclose whether the caller was successful in obtaining any money from the person called.
The case is an “open investigation,” which town police will forward to the FBI for review, he said. Town police do not have any suspects in the case, he said.
Such scams do not occur often in Newtown, but they do occur, he said.
The best way for people to protect themselves from falling victim to such schemes is to be aware of their existence, he said. For example, if a telephone caller claims that a family member is being held hostage, then the person called should check on whether that family member is all right, Lt Robinson said.
During the past couple of months, the type of scam that was reported by Stop & Shop to police has been occurring in the Northeast US, he said.
In a recent news release, US Senator Chris Murphy disclosed the contents of a letter that he sent to the FBI urging that the details of such telephone scams be publicly disclosed.
“Current media reports and reports from citizens in Connecticut who have contacted my office describe a telephone call they received where the perpetrator claims that a family member of the intended victim has been involved in an accident and is being held hostage until the caller receives money,” the senator wrote.
“Several Connecticut residents have fallen victim to this fraud, even though local police have been active in trying to protect the community from this type of crime,” he said.
“In one instance, local police have alerted providers of money-wiring services, like Western Union, to be on the lookout for this type of suspicious situation. As reports of this telephone scam continue to come in from all over the state of Connecticut, I am requesting that your [FBI] agency devote appropriate resources to helping Connecticut’s local law enforcement agencies alert their communities about this criminal activity and locate the perpetrators,” the senator said.
“Connecticut’s working families, immigrant communities, and senior citizens appear to be the targets of this insidious activity, and our state’s law enforcement could use any help that you might be able to provide in seeing that no more Connecticut residents are tricked out of their hard-earned money,” Mr Murphy said in the statement.