Port Hueneme man, others targeted by frightening text-message scam

PORT HUENEME, Calif. (KABC) -- A text scam that uses frightening and grotesque images has left a Port Hueneme man on edge after receiving a message Tuesday evening.

T.J., who asked to not be identified, said the text message came in just after 6 p.m.

"The message I received was pretty shocking and scary at first. It was definitely concerning," T.J. said.

The person behind the threatening message identified themselves as part of a cartel located in Mexico. The text went on to accuse T.J. of wasting their time and therefore owing them money.

"It also explained to me that they had located a family member that they located me and I'm under investigation by them. They said I needed to pay them money or else they were going to basically annihilate my family and me," T.J. said.

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Also, attached to the text message were three pictures including one of a decapitated man.

Port Hueneme police say in the past six months they've received three similar reports.

"Two of those pictures are typically with somebody sitting on a bed with an AK-47 or some type of weapon and then the third photo is an image of a deceased subject who has been decapitated," said Scott Matalon, spokesman for the city of Port Hueneme Police Department.
"They are in no danger. It is a scam. It's fake and the best suggestion we have is go ahead and delete that message and also block the phone number from which it came from," said Matalon.

Similar scams have been reported around the country over the past year, including in Utah, Connecticut and North Carolina.

The scam uses fear to get victims to respond. If they do, the scammer sends instructions on how to pay with either a prepaid debit card, gift cards or wire money.

T.J. said he eventually learned it was a scam by doing his own research. He says after several attempts to report the incident to the Port Hueneme Police Department a dispatcher told him there wasn't anything they could do and to block the number.

He said after his experience he hopes to warn others.

"I would just like to protect other people from the damage that something like this could cause them. Some people are vulnerable. Some people do send money. Some people do respond and end up in a situation," he said.

T.J. did not send the scammers any money. He also reported the incident to the Federal Communications Commission which tracks these types of scams.

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