HPD warns about 'relative in distress' scam


Police back are calling it the "relative in distress" scam, and so far they say eight people across Houston have been duped just in the past month.

That's why investigators with HPD's swindle unit want to alert the public about this scam. They say some unknown con artists posing as ICE agents or government officials are calling or emailing residents demanding money. They're claiming a close relative was found with contraband and is being held at a location like Intercontinental Airport, a detention center or a foreign country.

Police say the crooks then convince their victims to wire money in order to help out their troubled relative.

Police say so far the victims who've fallen for this scam include the elderly and Hispanic immigrants.

"Any law enforcement agency, be it Customs, iCE, Houston Police Department, an embassy somewhere, they are not going to ask for any taxes or fees to be paid via Western Union or MoneyGram, or Green Dot card," explained HPD Officer Gilbert Brillon. "Believe it or not, people go to pay Green Dot cards for these fees and taxes as well."

Police say if you get one of these calls, avoid becoming a victim by verifying the information. They also suggest contacting your loved one directly, and contacting that agency the caller represented.

Anyone victimized in this scam is urged to report it to the HPD Major Offenders Division at 713-308-3100.

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