On Wednesday morning Audrey V. Harper received a phone call from a man claiming to be her cousins son, Joshua LaMere, saying he had been involved in a car accident, was headed to the hospital and was under arrest.
What she didnt know then was that she had nearly been the victim of a scam thats been targeting people in this area for months.
The voice sounded so much like him, Mrs. Harper, who lives in Ogdensburg, said. I really had no idea what was going on.
After several minutes of conversation a man came on the line claiming to be with law enforcement saying Joshua would be arraigned in the morning.
Mrs. Harper asked what hospital her nephew was at and was told he was at the general hospital in district five, 225 Broadway St. The man on the line also told Mrs. Harper she wasnt allowed to visit.
At this point Mrs. Harper said she became suspicious.
Joshua LaMere is a student at SUNY Canton and Mrs. Harper said she knows there arent any general hospitals in the area.
Mrs. Harper continued to insist on getting more information about the accident – they told her Joshua had crashed into a garage door and that the homeowner was pressing charges – but when she said she wanted to visit him in the hospital they hung up.
After the man hung up Mrs. Harper contacted Joshuas parents, Heuvelton residents William L. and Shelia E. LaMere.
I, of course, freaked out, Mr. LaMere said.
The family immediately reached out to local police departments looking for information about the accident and trying to find their son.
Eventually, Mrs. LaMere said, SUNY Canton police officers found Joshua in class and unharmed.
Its a big scam, Mr. LaMere said. A lot of time was spent.
Mr. LaMere reported the phone call to the state police in Ogdensburg Wednesday afternoon.
State police said they cant be sure if its a scam or a prank and that its difficult to trace where phone calls are coming from and who owns the number.
Mrs. Harper wrote down the number of the people who called her: 1-778-235-3780.
Police also said to be sure not to give personal details out over the phone to people if you are not sure who they are.
A similar phone call was made to Douglas H. and Dorothy M. Ahrens of Ogdensburg in July 2013 when scammers lied to them and told them their grandson had been responsible for a fatal car accident.
In that case the people on the line were asking for nearly $3,000.
Just like with Mrs. Harper when Mr. Ahrens asked too many questions they hung up the phone.
Im shocked to think that such a thing could happen, Mrs. Harper said. It put us all on alert.
Mrs. LaMere said she wants other people to be aware of the scam so they dont go through the scare her family suffered.