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Virtual Kidnapping Scam
Imagine receiving a telephone call from a number you did not know or recognize. When you answer the phone, an individual on the other line proceeds to tell you that they have kidnapped one of your loved ones and are holding them ransom. Your instant and expected reaction is fear and immediate concern for your loved one as you are given instructions to wire a set amount of money to keep them from being harmed. This unfortunately has happened all too often and is the new scam that is occurring around the Country. This specific scam is called the virtual kidnap for ransom scam.
This type of scam entails individuals (mostly from out of the U.S.) randomly targeting phone numbers and placing calls as they try to persuade individuals to give into their demands. In some instances, some scammers will research social media accounts and will select their targets after they have gleaned personal information about the victim’s relatives before placing the call.
In instances like these, the suspects create a sense of fear and urgency to rush the victim into making a very hasty decision based on concern for their loved ones.
While we cannot predict when and to whom these calls will be made to, we can better equip the community in case this does happen to you. The following are a few suggestions to discuss with your loved ones should this type of extortion scam happen to you.
- Block your social media accounts so it can only be viewed or accessed by friends and people you approve of.
- Consider not answering calls from phone numbers that you do not recognize.
- Consider a family “safe word” that only you and your family members know that can be asked in case of a situation like this.
- Think and discuss specific questions and answers that could be asked that could not be gleaned from looking at your social media accounts i.e. what is the name of our pet dog.
- If receiving this type of call on a cellphone (specifically a smartphone), you can exit out of the call screen by pressing the home button, while keeping the call active.
- You can then send a text message or social media message to your loved one to check on their well-being.
- Call 911 and report the incident immediately.