CRIME ALERT: VIRTUAL KIDNAPPING PHONE SCAM
Today my husband was a victim of a devastating fraud. Someone called him when he was on his way home from work telling him they kidnapped our daughter.
The scammers told him that they had his daughter. He reports that he heard his daughters voice even talking to him crying on the phone. He was caught off guard didn’t want to risk anything. The scammer said “if you hang up we will kill her.” The scammers had him go to a place to wire money. My husband did not answer any incoming calls and did not want to hang up to call anyone to check if daughter was in fact missing. I know this happened before and people realized it was a fraud but sometimes they can catch you off guard. He swears the girl sounded like our daughter.
This is NOT the first family in our community that this scam has happened to. This is very different from the other scams we warn about with IRS and DWP. This involves the life of a family member. Police say when one is in distress after being told a child is kidnapped any voice will sound like your childs. These scammers are expert at what they do.
Be aware that this happens and that it could happen to you. See below for more information on this known scam. Ways to identify, process and avoid.
Virtual Kidnapping Ransom Scam
The scam typically begins with a phone call saying your family member is being held captive. The caller may allege your daughter has been kidnapped and you hear a female screaming in the background. Another variant of the fraud has a family member being held because he/she caused an auto accident, is injured and won’t be allowed to go to the hospital until damages are paid. Callers will typically provide the victim with specific instructions to ensure a safe return of the family member. You may be ordered to stay on the line until money is wired. The caller may claim not to have received the money and may demand more payment. The following is taken directly from a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Press Release and explains how to avoid becoming a victim:
To avoid becoming a victim of this extortion scheme, look for the following possible indicators:
* Incoming calls come from an outside area code, sometimes from Puerto Rico with area codes (787), (939) and (856).
* Calls do not come from the alleged kidnapped victim’s phone.
* Callers go to great lengths to keep you on the phone.
* Callers prevent you from calling or locating the “kidnapped” victim.
* Ransom money is only accepted via wire transfer service.
If you receive a phone call from someone who demands payment of a ransom for a kidnapped victim, the following should be considered:
* Try to slow the situation down. Request to speak to the victim directly. Ask, “How do I know my loved one is okay?”
* If the callers don’t let you speak to the victim, ask them to describe the victim or describe the vehicle the victim drives, if applicable.
* Listen carefully to the voice of the kidnapped victim if he/she speaks.
* Attempt to call, text, or contact the alleged victim via social media. Request that the victim call back from his or her cell phone.
* While staying on the line with the alleged kidnappers, try to call the alleged kidnap victim from another phone.
* To buy time, repeat the caller’s request and tell them you are writing. down the demand, or tell the caller you need additional time to meet their demands.
* Don’t directly challenge or argue with the caller. Keep your voice low and steady.
* Request the alleged kidnapper allow the victim to call you back from his/her cell phone.
* At the earliest opportunity, notify your local police department.
To help prevent this scam, check privacy settings on social media accounts and revisit the information you publicize on those accounts. The more information available to the public, the more information scammers can use to convince you into believing a scam is real