COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - A Colorado Springs man was out $500 Monday after falling victim to a social media scam over the weekend.
Anthony Ramos received a phone call Saturday morning from an Illinois number. The caller said Ramos's sister was in a bad accident. The caller explained Ramos's sister hit the caller's brother. The brother was a fugitive on the run. The brother did not have insurance and two needed money. The police couldn't be involved and if their demands weren't met, Ramos's sister would be harmed.
"(The caller would say to someone in the background) 'her brother isn't cooperating, just knock her out, just do what you got to do, just get rid of her,'" said Ramos.
The caller told Ramos his sister would be hurt if Ramos tried to call his sister or if he hung up the phone. Ramos texted family to try to get a hold of his sister. No one got back to him. Believing his sister's life was in real danger, Ramos followed the caller's instructions and wired $500 to an account in Puerto Rico.
Shortly after the transaction was finalized, Ramos got a call from his sister. She had been busy and didn't see hear her phone go off. Ramos filed a police report, but the money was gone.
"We have seen several cases where people reported to us that someone has reportedly taken a loved one, kidnapped them and are holding them hostage. We have heard of some (scammers) calling up saying they were in a traffic accident so I took them," said Sgt. Darrin Abbink with the Colorado Springs Police Department.
People have filed several reports like Ramos's in Colorado Springs. Some have been lucky enough to realize it was a scam, others also wired money.
"These people are very good at digging into our lives a little bit and they are actually targeting specific victims," said Abbink. "They are researching people who have open social media (profiles), Facebook accounts or twitter.
Scammers can find out a loved one's hobbies, their profession, contact information and other personal information that can fool a victim into believing the scammer has direct contact with the loved one.
Ramos's case, the scammer said he got Ramos's number from his sister.
"When we all grew up, we all learned you don't talk to strangers on the street. Well, in today's society, you go on the Internet (and) it doesn't feel like you're talking to a stranger, but you're putting personal information out there that strangers can access easily," said Abbink.
Abbink recommends using privacy settings in a site like Facebook to dictate who has access to your information. You can find the privacy settings in the top right corner of your Facebook page. Under that tab, you can click on different sections to determine who has access to what on your Facebook page.
Abbink urged people who did get a phone call like this but didn't wire money to go to www.ic3.gov. It's a federal internet crime complaint center that's compiling information about this scam across the country.
He urged people who have wired money to scammers to file a police report with Colorado Springs police. Police are investigating reports that have come in about this scam.
Abbink said if people do get a call from a scammer and fear their loved one is in real danger, go to a police station and stay on the line. Hand the phone to a police officer. Police used this tactic at Colorado Springs Police Department's Gold Hill Subdivision. The scammer hung up and never contacted the person again.
Ramos said the money was a small price to pay if his sister was in real danger. He would do anything for his family so he is frustrated crooks have found a way to take advantage of that.