YAPHANK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — In the wake of a spike in incidents, Suffolk County police issued a warning Tuesday about a telephone scam in which people are tricked into wiring money for what they think is a family member in trouble.

In the scam, the mark receives a call from someone claiming he or she knows a family member who is in trouble and needs help immediately. The caller does not say where the family member is, but tries to pressure the victim to send money.

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In one scenario, the caller says he has just been in a car accident with a relative of the victim who refuses to pay for the damage. The caller says he is holding a gun to the family member’s head, and will shoot unless the victim pays thousands of dollars, police said.

In other scenarios, the scam artist says that the family member has been arrested and needs money for bail, or that the family owes someone money. The victim is asked to withdraw money from the ATM, and wire the money according to the caller’s instructions.

Investigators said the victims are randomly selected, and the scam usually works on the victims.

Suffolk County police said Tuesday evening that there had been five instances of the scam within 24 hours, and a huge increase in reported incidents since an initial warning in November of last year.

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Similar cases were reported last month in Central New Jersey. On Dec. 6, a father in South Brunswick received a cell phone call saying his son had gotten into a car accident, and the suspect claimed to be holding his son captive until the father paid for vehicle damages through Western Union.

The caller claimed the man’s son was injured and would be taken to the hospital when the payment was received. The caller also claimed to have the son’s cell phone and asked the father if he would just like to have the son killed.

The father was on the phone for an hour, and ultimately wired the money. Afterward, the suspect directed the father to go to a certain New Brunswick hospital, and hung up when the father arrived.

The father did not find his son at the hospital, so he called his son’s cell phone and found out there was no accident and the whole thing was a scam.

Suffolk County police advised residents to verify the threatened relative’s whereabouts on their own if they receive a call, and never give out any personal of information. Anyone who receives the call is asked to call police.

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Have you, or anyone you know, been victimized by this scam? Leave your comments below…