PALO ALTO (CBS SF) – Police in Palo Alto are warning the public about a new phone scam involving demands for ransom and fictitious claims about a car crash and threats of a kidnapping.

Victims typically get a call reporting that a loved one got into a traffic collision in a nearby town, and unless the victim wires money to pay for damage to the suspect’s vehicle, that loved one will be kidnapped and harmed.

The victim is instructed not to hang up, and to stay on the line until the money’s been received, which is thought to be a way of keeping the victim from calling the authorities. In some cases, victims have even heard the voice of a person in distress in the background during the call, according to police.

Investigators say this scam is widespread, and there are probably a large number of unrelated suspects engaged in this kind of activity around the U.S.

Any Palo Alto resident who’s fallen victim to this scam can contact police at (650) 329-2413.

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