What to Know About the Virtual Kidnapping Ransom Scam

Photo from Wilson County Sheriff
Photo from Wilson County Sheriff

From Wilson County Sheriff’s Office

Wilson County Sheriff’s Office recently had one report of what appeared to be a kidnapping ransom scam and wanted to give you information on how this works. This scam has been around for years, but we haven’t taken many complaints regarding this particular one that can be frightening for parents who receive this type of phone call.

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 the money is wired. The caller may claim not to have received the money and may demand more payment.

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 or from another phone.
  • At your earliest opportunity, notify your local law enforcement agency.

Scams are as old as mankind, and they continue to thrive and evolve. The Internet Age has enabled scammers to operate without coming face to face with potential victims. As always, never give out any personal identifying information over the phone where your identity may be compromised.

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