A Saddle Brook man is out $7,200 after he fell for phone calls that told him his father was being held against his will after a car accident — and the FBI warns such scams are becoming more common.

The FBI issued an alert this week for kidnapping scams in the New York area.

“This is a scheme that takes advantage of some of the most vulnerable people in New York City,” FBI Assistant Director in Charge George Venizelos said. “We need the public to be aware of this scam and call us if they have been a victim.”

Saddle Brook Police Chief Robert Kugler told the Daily View the scam, which involved sending several payments via Moneygram, was "pretty bizarre and hard to comprehend," but said he understands that when a family member is involved a victim may not question the supposed threat.

Kugler said the man was told to wire a $1,900 Moneygram to ensure the safe return of his father, according to the report. The caller said there was an error and needed another $1,900, the report said. The man sent a third wire for $1,900 when the caller threatened to kill the man's father, and then another $1,500 after that, it said.

The caller also demand the victim stay on the phone for four hours, again under the threat his father would be killed, Kugler told the Daily View.

Kugler told the publication said the man went to his father's home, where the caller said he would be brought, only to discover his father was already home and had not been in an accident. All the Moneygrams had been cashed, the report said.

There was a similar "virtual kidnapping":in Verona in December, according to the New Jersey Herald. A Verona woman was scammed out of $1,700 after being told her husband has been taken from his office in New York City, the report said.

To avoid becoming a victim of this extortion scheme, the FBI advised looking for the following possible indicators:

  • Incoming calls from an outside area code, sometimes from Puerto Rico with area codes 787, 939 and 856
  • Calls that do not come from the kidnapped victim’s phone
  • Callers who go to great lengths to keep you on the phone
  • Callers who prevent you from calling or locating the “kidnapped” victim
  • Ransom money only being accepted via wire transfer service

If you receive a phone call from someone who demands payment of a ransom for a kidnapped victim, the following should be considered, the FBI advises:

  • Try to slow the situation down. Request to speak to the victim directly. Ask, “How do I know my loved one is okay?”
  • If they don’t let you speak to the victim, ask them to describe the victim or describe the vehicle they drive, if applicable.
  • Listen carefully to the voice of the kidnapped victim if they speak.
  • Attempt to call, text, or contact the victim via social media. Request that the victim call back from his or her cell phone.
  • While staying on the line with alleged kidnappers, try to call the alleged kidnap victim from another phone.
  • To buy time, repeat the caller’s request and tell them you are writing down the demand, or tell the caller you need time to get things moving.
  • Don’t directly challenge or argue with the caller. Keep your voice low and steady.
  • Request the kidnapped victim call back from his/her cell phone.

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