Port Jefferson family was told their son was in jail in phone scam; nearly lost $15,000
A Port Jefferson family nearly lost $15,000 to phone scammers claiming to be their son in jail.
On Friday morning, Sharon Vigliarolo received a phone call from a man identifying himself David Bell, who claimed to be her son’s public defender. The caller told Vigliarolo that her son, 27-year-old Tyler, had been arrested for driving through a stop sign while on his cellphone and hitting a pregnant woman with his car.
Vigliarolo was prepared to send $15,000 to get her son out of jail but grew suspicious after hearing the caller tell her he’d send someone to her home to pick up the money.
"Your parent mode kicks in and you're not thinking straight. All you're worried about is getting your son or daughter out of jail,” she said.
Prior to that phone call, Vigliarolo’s mother also received a call about the alleged incident from a scammer she believed was Tyler.
The family was convinced their son had committed the crime until Tyler used FaceTime to call them and prove he was not behind bars.
"When I was on the phone with my dad, he's like ‘aren't you in jail?’ I said no. He said, ‘it's OK you're in jail.’ I said, ‘I am not in jail.’ I FaceTime them and they're like, ‘oh my god, he is at home,” said Tyler. "They were all obviously upset and terrified when I FaceTimed them. The look on their face when they saw me in bed was out of this world."
The Vigliarolo family filed a police report about the incident. They said Suffolk police are aware of this scam. News 12 has also received several reports of people falling victim to the same scam across the county.
Private investigator Don Longo holds public lectures on phone scams. Although these situations are stressful, he says people should be prepared when someone asks for money over the phone.
"The bad guys are smart – you need to be smarter,” he said. "We need to take time to verify and confirm before we jump into those things. But again, the bad guys know that it's an emotional thing."