Suffolk police on Tuesday warned residents that investigators have seen an increase in the number of scams in which con artists telephone potential victims and ask them to wire money right away to help a family member in trouble.
The county police say they've seen an uptick in such incidents, with five reported in the previous 24 hours.
"The caller attempts to pressure the victim to send money without verifying the family member's whereabouts," police said in a statement.
"In one scenario, the caller claims that they have just been in a motor vehicle crash with a relative of the victim who refuses to pay for the damage," police said.
"The caller claims to be holding the relative at gunpoint until the victim pays several thousand dollars."
Other callers may claim that a family member urgently needs to repay a loan, or has been arrested and needs money for bail, police said.
The victim, whose number was randomly selected, is instructed to take cash from an ATM and then to wire the money.
Newsday reported earlier this month that there had been several attempts to use the scam since November, and in three investigations a threat of serious physical injury against a person being held was used. In all but one case the calls were made before noon, Newsday reported in a Dec. 5 story.
Police recommend that residents independently verify the well-being of family members before sending money. Such crimes may be reported to the police at 800-220-TIPS, or by texting "SCPD" and a message to CRIMES (274637).