Theft by deception is a technique often used by criminals to obtain money or identifying information willingly from victims, most often our more vulnerable citizens, often the elderly. Most people have become aware of scams involving phone calls or emails requesting identifying information or confirmation of bank account numbers, some asking the victim to wire money to a stranger in need, sometimes to someone claiming to be a relative. In the last couple of months Baltimore County has experienced a new type of telephone scam, one that is terrorizing it's victims.

Since September police have been notified of at least six incidents where a stranger has called and claimed that he had kidnapped a family member and demanded a ransom be wired. The frightening aspect of this has been that the caller knew names and information about the family member, making the claim appear real. The caller has demanded that the ransom be paid by wire, immediately, while he is still on the phone, in an attempt to keep the victim from checking on the family member before obtaining the money.

All of these calls have been determined to be false calls, and all have been linked back to numbers that appear to originate from Mexico. It is important to understand that with the advent of social media, much about our lives can be obtained by strangers, including names, home locations, school locations, even phone numbers, that are allowing these phone calls to initially appear valid. They are not.

It is important to share this information with anyone you think may be vulnerable to such a scam. Never remove money from a bank, wire money, send checks, or supply any personal identification or account information over the phone or on your computer before first verifying that the claim is legitimate.

If you or someone you know receives such a phone call, or any other incident that appears to be a scam or attempted theft by deception, call 9-1-1 and report the incident to police immediately.