Residents falling victim to ‘family emergency’ scheme

NORTH PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A common scheme targeting the elderly is re-emerging – and it recently cost a local couple thousands of dollars.

Callers say a family member is in trouble and needs money for bail and other expenses. But there’s a new twist – now callers are requesting gift cards instead of credit cards or cash.

When Pat DiCecco answered the phone, she said someone who sounded just like her niece was asking for help.

“She was in the police station and needed some money to be able to be released,” she said.

Then, someone else got on the phone and told Pat and her husband Richard that they had to pay up in iTunes gift cards. Richard rushed out to the store and spent $2,000.

“I thought I was helping my niece by doing this,” he said. “He told us that was the new procedures they were following – just rip off the strip on the back and give the numbers.”

Which is exactly what the couple did, though they quickly grew suspicious of the situation.

They said they called police and their credit card company, but the money was already gone.

Paula Fleming with the Better Business Bureau told Call 12 For Action these “family emergency scams” are happening nationwide.

According to the organization’s scam tracker, people have reported dozens of similar cases.

Some people say they have lost thousands of dollars – but many say they have caught on to the fraudsters.

“A lot of people that are coming to us and saying that this scam has transpired are not falling for it,” Fleming said.How to protect yourself, according to the Federal Trade Commission: 

The DiCeccos said they wish they would have just hung up the phone.

North Providence police told Call 12 For Action they are investigating a second case with the same MO – only this time the callers asked for Amazon gift cards.

Police said they’ve identified two possible suspects in Miami.