DARIEN — A new phone scam has frightened parents with the caller claiming their child has been kidnapped and could be tortured if a ransom isn’t paid.

Detective/Sgt. Jeremiah P. Marron Jr. said a Darien High School parent received one of these calls Wednesday.

“The incident involved an unsuspecting and loving parent who was not aware that this type of scam occurs in our area every day,” Marron said. “Imagine going about your daily routine when suddenly you receive a phone call that shatters your existence. A voice on the other line informs you that they have kidnapped your child. Panicked, you unwittingly provide the very details needed to pull off this scam.”

Marron said the calls have been occurring at an “alarming rate” in Darien and surrounding communities.

Marron said the callers have instructed parents to remain on the phone and to drive to an ATM to withdraw about $800.

The caller then instructs the parent to meet at a nearby retail location where the child will be released, Marron said. However, after the caller doesn’t show up, the parents are instructed to wire the money, Marron said.

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Darien police tips to avoid kidnapping scam

Memorize or keep a written list of family cell phone numbers that can be accessed if your cell phone is in use.

Do not provide family information over the phone. Simply responding to a simple question like “Do you have a daughter?” can trigger a kidnapping scam.

Attempt to identify the location of the caller as well as the family member.

Ask specific questions to assess the validity of the call. Asking the hostage to describe the family member may prompt the caller to hang up.

Notify police as soon as possible.

Save the incoming phone number, along with any text messages, voicemails or photos sent by the caller.

Do not panic. This scam feeds on fear.

Once the financial transaction is complete, the caller hangs up, Marron said.

“To gain your total cooperation, the caller may go so far as to threaten your child with torture,” Marron said. “In (Wednesday’s) incident, someone in the background could be heard crying.“

Marron said the Darien High parent contacted on Wednesday did not lose any money.

“This sickening tactic preys on parents’ worst fears,“ Marron said. “It is understandable why people cooperate, especially when the ransom price is relatively low. Although parents are relieved when they learn that their loved one is safe, their money will likely never be recovered.”