November 4, 2013 - The Houston Police Department Major Offenders Division warns citizens aware of a scam gaining popularity in the Houston area.
Dubbed the "relative in distress" scam, victims commonly receive an email or a phone call purportedly from a relative or a friend visiting another state or a foreign country, claiming to be in some type of distress and requesting money in the form of an emergency loan.
The victims can also receive a phone call, purportedly from a representative of the United States Customs and Border Patrol, regarding a relative of the victim being detained upon entering the United States. The reason for the detention varies from illegal entry to the United States to the relative carrying a substantially large amount of cash, leading authorities to believe the relative was attempting to smuggle cash into the country. The victim is told to pay a fine or bond for the release of the relatives by wire transfer.
HPD officers caution anyone who receives these types of phone calls to confirm who they are speaking to at all times. Try to contact the relative in distress or the agency that purportedly contacted you using a known and valid number. Be aware that taxes and fines are not typically paid via wire transfer.
Anyone victimized in this scam is urged to report it to the HPD Major Offenders Division at 713-308-3100.
At 10 a.m. TODAY (Monday, November 4), investigators with the HPD Major Offenders Division will be available to answer questions and provide safety tips regarding the "relative in distress" scam in the Media Briefing Room on the first floor of HPD Headquarters at 1200 Travis.
NOTE: MEDIA PERSONNEL MUST ENTER THE BUILDING THROUGH THE PUBLIC ENTRANCE AT 1200 TRAVIS, GO THROUGH THE METAL DETECTORS AND PRESENT A VALID IDENTIFICATION BEFORE BEING ESCORTED TO THE BRIEFING ROOM.
For additional information, please contact the HPD Public Affairs Division at 713-308-3200.