Threatening Phone Scams are Targeting Parents and Immigrants

Two disturbing phone scams have popped up on the FTC’s radar. Both scams have one thing in common: they want to trick (and scare) you out of money. If you live on Staten Island, pay close attention, since these two scams seem to be targeting people in your area. But we know that scammers don’t often stick with one area, so they could expand their target area any time now.

Phone scam extorting parents

This scam starts with someone texting you a picture of your own child — that they could’ve grabbed off of the internet, like your public social media account. Sometimes, these scammers also send frightening pictures, like images of dismembered bodies. In either case, the messages come with the threat that the scammer knows where you live and will kill your family if you don’t pay them. If you get a call like this, report it to your local police right away, before you do anything else.

Phone scam targeting immigrant

This scam starts as an imposter call from someone pretending to be from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). These scammers often say your immigration status is being revoked, and the police are on their way to arrest or deport you — unless you pay them money right away.

These are both scams. As scary as they seem, if you’ve gotten these kinds of messages or calls:

  • Don’t respond to calls or texts, and don’t pay, even in the face of threats. Scammers will often try to pressure and intimidate you to get your money or information.
  • Report these scams to your local police department, and then tell the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.
  • Set your social media accounts to private. This can keep scammers from getting personal details, or grabbing pictures you don’t want shared.
  • Know that the government will never call or text to threaten you or ask for money. If you’re concerned, look up the agency’s real number and call them directly. Ask them what the story is.