Anchorage residents should be on their guard picking up the phone, police said Saturday, after a pair of malicious calls reported this week – including one during which the scammers tried to ransom the victim’s wife, in methods very similar to a February case.

The latest kidnapped-wife scam was reported to police at about noon Friday, according to an APD statement.

“The preliminary investigation found that this suspect caller claimed to have kidnapped the victim’s wife and demanded money to be brought to Fred Meyer in exchange for her safety,” police wrote. “The suspect(s) put the victim’s wife on speaker phone for added effect; this was possible because the suspect(s) were simultaneously on the phone with her and they could record the conversation for playback. They threatened that if he got off the phone or if they saw police, they would harm her.”

Police found that the suspects had been calling the wife at the same time Friday as well, demanding that she settle an outstanding warrant for failure to appear in court with prepaid debit cards.

Police said the scammers who made the Friday calls even sent the husband to the same Fred Meyer – the Midtown location at Northern Lights and Benson boulevards – as the man who told KTVA he emptied his bank account in response to a Feb. 15 call. The people who made that call, he said, told him they had his wife and threatened to “rape and kill her” unless he stayed on the line while buying prepaid debit cards and providing their access numbers.

Investigators said the scammers in the February call kept the man from contacting his wife by calling her simultaneously. In hindsight, the husband told KTVA, the scam might have unraveled if they had texted each other.

APD spokeswoman Kendra Doshier said it wasn’t clear what if any losses the couple had suffered in Friday’s call. Neither were able to initially report the matter, due to the scammers’ calls.

“It was actually a concerned friend who was able to get in contact with Anchorage police and say, ‘Something’s not right, there’s something suspicious about this; can you help?’” Doshier said.

Police said Saturday afternoon that they believe there is a link between the February and Friday calls.

Friday’s incident came just over a day after a separate scam, reported at about 8:15 a.m. Thursday,

“Officers had cause to believe that the suspect harvested extensive amounts of personal information from the victim’s public Facebook profile and wielded that knowledge to intimidate the victim,” police wrote.

Doshier said police were able to intervene Thursday before the victims lost any money. Although the threats were generic, Doshier said they appeared to be based on the Facebook information.

“It was basically, ‘Pull out money and send it to me or else,’” Doshier said. “It’s like, ‘These are the names of your kids, I know where you live,’ that kind of stuff to incite fear.”

In light of this week’s calls, APD shared a recording of a third phone scam on the department’s Facebook page – in which the suspect claimed to be a police officer.

Police and most public agencies don’t collect debts by phone, or request that they be settled using debit cards. APD urges people to hang up on any suspicious callers demanding money, especially those claiming to be from law enforcement or government agencies, and report them to police at 311 as well as the agency from which they claim to be calling.

On the social-media front, APD recommends that people carefully screen friend requests and accept only those from people they know in person. In addition, they say, it’s a good idea not to post unnecessarily personal information and to change settings so the information on a profile isn’t publicly available.

“Right now, social media privacy settings (or lack thereof) are creating windows of opportunity for suspects to take advantage of people and extort them for money,” police wrote.

Copyright 2018 KTVA. All rights reserved.

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