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US Customs issues warning about scam targeting families

US Customs issues warning about scam targeting families

HOUSTON: US Customs and Border Protection agents, along with representatives of the Houston Airport System, are warning passengers about a scam that has successfully targeted several Houston-area families who have relatives outside of the US.

Scammers are targeting Hispanic families by telephone, claiming to be a long-lost relative. They say they are stuck in Customs at Bush Airport and need $1,000 to $1,500 to be allowed into the country.  Sometimes the scammers even claim to be with Customs and Border Protection, or an attorney representing the relative, and stress that the money needs to be wired immediately, or the person will not be allowed into the country.

“Turns out that it’s a scam,” said US Customs and Border Protection agent Tomas Gonzalez. He says some people have even turned up at Terminal E at Bush Airport looking for that fictitious relative. “Yes, as a matter of fact, personally I’ve encountered people out here right outside our area looking for someone, looking for a family member,” said Gonzalez. “As a matter of fact, it happened two weeks ago.”

The scam is a common ploy in Mexico, sometimes with the scammers getting the exact name of a real relative. Some of the calls there have been traced to Mexican prisons. But at Bush Airport officials say the number of victims so far is relatively small.