FALMOUTH — Scammers are becoming ever more desperate: a resident has received a text message threatening death if the recipient didn’t send a check for $5,000 to “a charity foundation assisting refugees at the Turkish-Syrian border.”
In an interview Dec. 29, Lt. John Kilbride said the Police Department has no doubt the message sent via a personal cell phone earlier in the week is “all bogus.” But what’s so unusual is how “very intimidating” the message is, making the recipient feel like “someone is standing right outside their window.”
Kilbride said that 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.
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, Kilbride said, but this is the first time he is aware of that someone 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 said preliminary investigation into the text message didn’t reveal much, although the sender appeared to be Russian or Eastern European and demanded a MoneyGram or Western Union wire transfer sent to an address in Istanbul, Turkey.
In the opening line, the sender of the message stresses, “This is not a joke … (I) am dead serious and your negligence will cost you.” The message also states, “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.
In a press release issued Dec. 28, Kilbride said, “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.”
No money was transferred.
So far, Kilbride said, he’s aware of only one local resident who received the threatening text message.
Residents are encouraged to contact the Falmouth police at 781-2300 with any information or concerns related to this or any other scam.