“Virtual Kidnapping” calls on the rise

Several local residents have been targeted recently for a fraud/scam that has been labeled as “virtual kidnapping”.   The caller tells the targeted victim that a grandson or other family member is in trouble, usually out of the country, and then they are given instructions on wiring or sending money electronically to solve the problem.

Are you putting too much personal information about your grandkids or other family members on your Facebook Page for all the world to see?  This scam is nothing new and it appears that the criminals are getting the relationship information from family social media pages.   It also appears that these criminals target elderly family members who might have only occasional contact with the family member that is “kidnapped”.

The F.B.I. suggests the following action if you receive one of these calls.

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 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 they don’t let you speak to the victim, ask them to describe the victim or describe the vehicle they drive, if applicable.
  • Listen carefully to the voice of the kidnapped victim if they speak.
  • Attempt to call, text, or contact the victim via social media. Request that the victim call back from his or her cell phone.
  • While staying on the line with 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 time to get things moving.
  • Don’t directly challenge or argue with the caller. Keep your voice low and steady.

Request the kidnapped victim call back from his/her cell phone.