Police warn not to fall for threatening text message scams, send money to strangers

HENRICO COUNTY, Va - A young man told his mother about a series of threatening text messages he received from a number that appeared to come from a "757" area code.  After reading the messages, they went to the Virginia State Police, who are now warning about the texting scam.

The messages contained personal information about the young man, including names of his family members and his address.  The messages that followed threatened violence against his family if he did not send the scammers $1,500 immediately.

"I am a man of my word, I do not play with anyone, and nobody plays with me or plays with my company. I am a good man forever, but because of evil I am the devil," the messages read.  "I do not want problems but you do not pay me the money for the lost time, my girl will regret not having done it here. I want you to see how we do to people who are just playing with us."

VSP special agents were able to track down the IP address used to send the text messages through a free text messaging application.  The spoofed number originated from the Dominican Republic, and investigators determined the threats were a hoax.

"Interesting to note, this same phone number was also flagged in October in North Carolina as being involved in a very similar text message was sent, photos of injured persons, and conveying the same threat," said special agent Thomas Cashin, who investigated the case for the Virginia State Police.

Because how accessible this kind of technology is globally, Cashin advises reporting threatening calls or text messages to the authorities immediately, like this victim did.

"It's only going to increase. They are going to go after those who don't know, who are afraid," he said.  "Be aware that if it's a number you don't recognize and they are making demands like this, do not comply, be suspicious."

All major telecommunication companies offer some kind of call filtering service, so Cashin urges citizens to contact their phone provider about accessing them.

VSP said you should never send money or gift cards to people or organizations you do not know.  You can report any suspicious activity like this directly to local and state law enforcement or the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Connor Bailey, who lives in Richmond, said he receives scam calls, texts, and emails regularly but was alarmed to see this kind of threat laid out in black and white text.

"There's the b.s. IRS calls or your car insurance, warranty. I get that stuff regularly because of online buying and what not, but that's pretty bad. It's pretty scary to be honest with you," Bailey said. "I think it gets worse before it gets better. There's bad people out there, and that's the problem."

Meghan Lobb said her father taught her to be cautious about providing personal information to people or companies that may be suspect.  She says this kind of scam proves how important it is to not let your guard down.

"I try not to click on things. I don't answer numbers I don't know," Lobb said.  "You want your privacy to still exist, and you don't want to have these threatening things and be wondering is this real or is my family in trouble."

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