DEREK CARSON, Staff Writer

HOOSICK, N.Y. -- A phone scammer claiming to be a bail bondsman recently targeted at least one couple in Rensselaer County.

The couple filed a report with the Rensselaer County Sheriff’s Office on Feb. 11. They received approximately six phone calls from the man, who claimed to be working for a bail company. He told them that they needed to send $1,800 to bail their nephew out of jail in Baltimore. They eventually informed the caller that their nephew was fine, and lived in a different state, at which point the scammer stopped calling them.

"This incident serves as a reminder to beware of phone scams," said Sheriff Jack Mahar, "Citizens should never blindly follow the directions of people who call them on the phone. If you do get a call from a bail agent or a jail, ask for a phone number to call back, or better yet look up the number yourself. Then call and confirm whether someone has in fact been arrested."

The press release warns residents to be wary of any solicitation or calls from an unidentified number. Phone scammers want to remain anonymous. If an unidentified or suspicious number does show up on your caller identification, wait until after the phone stops ringing and goes to your voice mail or answering machine. Family, friends, or anyone with a legitimate reason to be contacting you will leave a message. Use good judgment and protect your identity from phone scammers."

"The bail scam is usually pulled by travelling con artists that hit different cities at different times," said Mahar, "Recognizing a phone scam will help protect your money and your identity."

A dispatcher with the Bennington Police Department had not heard of any similar reports in Bennington, but encouraged anyone who feels they may be the victim of such a scam to come to the police station and file a report, although she noted there are times when there is nothing the police can do.

Mahar said that when in doubt about whether a caller is legitimate, "call your local sheriff’s office or local law enforcement agency. That’s what we’re here for."