No new info in death-threat scam

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FALMOUTH — Local police have no new information to release in their investigation into a text containing a death threat a Falmouth resident received Dec. 27.

The sender threatened harm if the resident didn’t immediately send $5,000 to assist refugees on the Turkish-Syrian border.

“We have nothing new and no new complaints, which is good,” Lt. John Kilbride said Jan. 3.

Kilbride said local police have no doubt the message, sent via a personal cell phone, is “all bogus.” But what’s so unusual, he said, is how “very intimidating” the message is, making the recipient feel like “someone is standing right outside their window.”

No money was transferred as a result of the threat; residents are encouraged to contact the Falmouth police at 781-2300 with any information or concerns related to this or any other scam.

On Dec. 29 Kilbride said a preliminary investigation into the text message hadn’t revealed much, although the sender appeared to be Russian or Eastern European and demanded a MoneyGram or Western Union wire transfer be sent to an address in Istanbul, Turkey.

In the opening line, the sender of the message stressed, “This is not a joke … (I) am dead serious and your negligence will cost you.” The message also stated, “You have to act fast as you have limited time” and the police “can’t help you.”

Kilbride said he’s heard these types of scams are “fairly common in Maryland” and the Falmouth resident may have been targeted because their cell phone includes a particular area code.

Kilbride said scammers are now moving from the more friendly “visions of grandeur” messages, such as informing people they have won an enormous amount in a foreign lottery or some unknown relative has left them money in a will. Criminals are now “venturing into intimidation,” the lieutenant said.

Local police are aware of scams where people have been threatened with arrest if they don’t pay a “fine” or “tax bill” or to get out of jury duty, said Kilbride, but this is the first time he’s become aware of someone who has received a death threat.

“Any scam is serious, but this is very serious. It’s playing on people’s emotions and really raised the bar,” he said. “They’ve really taken it to the end” with this type of threatening message.

Kilbride’s overall message is: “This is a scam, do not pay on this threat and please notify your local law enforcement agency if you receive such a text or e-mail message.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or Follow Kate on Twitter: @KirishCollins.