The Union City Police Department is investigating a kidnapping scam that began in mid-June, police officials said.
Anonymous suspects have been calling Union City residents claiming to have family members held hostage. The suspects threaten to harm the family members and order the victims to send money via Western Union, police said.
In one incident, police said, a 16-year-old girl answered the phone, and the suspect pretended to have her mother held hostage so that the girl would release her mother’s cellphone number.
The suspects then called the mother and told her that they had the daughter held hostage. Officers quickly responded and stopped the mother from wiring money to the suspects, police said.
"It's very scary; I'm still shaking," said the mother, who did not want to be indentified. She said the scammers contacted her at work, and she left notes with co-workers to call the police.
Meanwhile, the daughter was walking in a park, talking on the phone with the scammers who said they had her mother.
A couple of hours later, police caught up with the daughter at the park, just as the mother was about to wire money.
Police said they can't trace the call because the number used was fake. But there ways victims can be vigilant and deter the scammers.
"Ask for the victim; tell them you want to speak with them," said Sgt. Freddy Camacho. "Because one other thing they'll do is have somebody in the background screaming or yelling like they're being hurt."
Also, try to get ahold of victims ot others on social media, Camacho said.
Union City police urges residents to not give out any personal information of loved ones. Those who receive a suspicious call should contact police immediately.