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Latest area phone scam has a disturbing twist

A phone scam making the rounds in Medford this week has an eerie new twist: the scammers claim they have kidnapped a relative while someone screams for their life in the background. 

"It's a weird one. Pretty disturbing," said Medford police Lt. Mike Budreau. "This is a very evil twist to an old problem." 

Victims receive a call from a male claiming he has a relative and demands money be wired to them in exchange for the relative's safe return. Oftentimes, the scammer is able to name the relative they have kidnapped.

"They're able to get some type of information from some type of database, and they're using that to make the call more believable," Budreau said. "The scammers are good, and they are believable."

Medford police estimate they have received close to a dozen reports about the scam. The Jackson County Sheriff's Department has also taken at least one report on a similar case, according to department spokeswoman Christine Bronson. Most victims don't fall for it, but some have lost money they have wired to the scam artists as a "ransom." 

"It's definitely the newest scam," Budreau said. "It's the flavor of the month, so to speak." 

As with all scams, investigators recommend victims simply hang up the phone. The calls can be reported at the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center, www.ic3.gov. Victims who have lost money are asked to contact Medford police. 

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryanpfeil.