Virtual Kidnapping Scams On The Rise

Category: Security

The FBI has issued a bulletin warning the public about the rising threat of “virtual kidnapping scams,” in which unseen bad guys call a victim and demand ransom for an allegedly kidnapped loved one. Here's what you need to know...

Be Aware of New Kidnapping Scams

The FBI bulletin warns people to be aware of a new type of bogus kidnapping scam. While no one has actually been kidnapped, the crooks often use co-conspirators to imitate the “hostage’s” voice and even scream in fake agony to convince the victim to pay up right this very minute.

The crooks go to great lengths to keep the victim on the phone and talking, so that he/she doesn’t have time (or even think) to try to contact the alleged hostage via another phone, social media, email, etc. They also insist on payment of a ransom via a wire transfer, money order, or some other untraceable and unrecoverable payment method.

Yes, this scam actually works. With no trouble at all, I found two news reports in which victims paid the ransom demanded, only to learn later that the “hostage” was never in any danger. But both cases happened near the Texas-Mexico border, where the ruthless ultra-violence of drug cartels is a very real and imminent danger. Would such a scam “play in Peoria?”

FBI warning

Quite possibly, if the scammers add enough details gleaned from the alleged hostage’s social media accounts. Too many Facebook users like to announce that they’re going on vacation, even posting the names and photos of the hotels they’ll be staying at and other details that can help a scammer convince a victim they really did kidnap a loved one.

The Guardian newspaper published an article on virtual kidnappings on April, 2016, which included an account of a Los Angeles area mother who was duped into believing her young daughter was taken hostage.

Tracy Holczer was driving with a friend to their writers’ group in a suburb of Los Angeles when she got a terrifying call on her cellphone from a number she didn’t recognize. A hysterical girl was screaming on the other end of the line. “Mommy, please help me! Someone grabbed me, and I’m in a van. I don’t know where I am!”

A Tough Call...

What would you do - laugh and hang up? Most parents would err on the side of believing. “It sounded like my daughter,” recalls Ms. Holczer. Of course, all hysterical young girls sound alike, and scammers practice sounding hysterical and young. But terrified parents are not thinking very rationally.

It turned out that Ms. Holczer’s daughter was safely enjoying a youth summer camp; she was not kidnapped and was never in danger.

The FBI advises everyone who receive a “kidnapping” phone call to keep calm and slow the rapid-fire conversation down. Repeat everything the caller says, claiming that you want to get it right. Say you need to find a pen and paper to write down instructions.

Meanwhile, you should be waving to anyone nearby for help; use that pen and paper to tell standers-by what’s going on and give them the “hostage’s” phone number with a plea to call him or her.

And, of course, call the police as soon as possible. It’s vital to track the locations of these criminals, and the sooner police can get on the job of tracing the “kidnapping” call you received, the safer everyone will be.

Please feel free to post your comment below...

 
Ask Your Computer or Internet Question

  (Enter your question in the box above.)

It's Guaranteed to Make You Smarter...

AskBob Updates: Boost your Internet IQ & solve computer problems.
Get your FREE Subscription!


Email:

Check out other articles in this category:



Link to this article from your site or blog. Just copy and paste from this box:

This article was posted by on 1 Aug 2016


For Fun: Buy Bob a Snickers.

Prev Article:
Free 5-Point Tuneup For Hacker Defenses

The Top Twenty
Next Article:
Tools To Trace an Email

Most recent comments on "Virtual Kidnapping Scams On The Rise"

Posted by:

Gene
01 Aug 2016

Variation on this. I am the club treasurer for my sports car club. Occasionally, my club president emails me to pay one of our club bills, site fee or potty rental etc. I got an email from her telling me to wire some money to an address, I started asking questions and got answers of what club category to bill it to and other questions. Before sending anything, I called the Pres and we figured she had been hacked.


Posted by:

Gene
01 Aug 2016

Variation on this. I am the club treasurer for my sports car club. Occasionally, my club president emails me to pay one of our club bills, site fee or potty rental etc. I got an email from her telling me to wire some money to an address, I started asking questions and got answers of what club category to bill it to and other questions. Before sending anything, I called the Pres and we figured she had been hacked.


Posted by:

sirpaul2
01 Aug 2016

When I was in grade school (many moons ago), we were taught to have a 'trouble' word or phrase, to be used only if we were in trouble and in need of immediate help.
I've used it once, and had it used twice. It worked like a charm all three times.
Everyone I know (especially parents) thinks it's a great idea, and uses it.
Passwords aren't just for computers!


Posted by:

henry
01 Aug 2016

this type of crime is very common in mexico , most people don't even take notice of it they just hang up , these guys take random phone numbers and when they call they wait and see how the person reacts
once they called me and said that they had my daughter , but so happened that she was right at my sight
i just played along and faked as i where doing what they said after half an hour i just told them to please excuse me but i was just having some fun with them , they got so angry as to threaten with having me killed
i feel that they will attempt to expand to the usa


Posted by:

Jim
02 Aug 2016

If it was my ex-wife I would hope it was real.

Sorry, no money for you.


Posted by:

Al
02 Aug 2016

even posting the names and photos of the hotels they’ll be staying at and other details

We've become a nation of narcissists. This scam is your own fault. Bob tells you to use strong passwords, PVN, etc. and you blab everything on a public bulletin board.


Posted by:

Lou
03 Aug 2016

Bob, thanks for posting this warning article. I know of a n elder lady who fell for this scam, her "grandson" had been "arrested" in Mexico, according to caller, and she had to pay bail money or he would be held indefinitely awaiting trial. She paid by wire transfer, of course, and then found out that the grandson had been nowhere in Mexico. If she had heard of this scam prior to the call, she'd have saved several thousand dollars.


Post your Comments, Questions or Suggestions

*     *     (* = Required field)

    (Your email address will not be published)
(you may use HTML tags for style)

YES... spelling, punctuation, grammar and proper use of UPPER/lower case are important! And please limit your remarks to 3-4 paragraphs. If you want to see your comment posted, pay attention to these items.

All comments are previewed, and may be edited before posting.

NOTE: Please, post comments on this article ONLY.
If you want to ask a question click here.

Free Tech Support -- Ask Bob Rankin
RSS   Add to My Yahoo!   Feedburner Feed
Subscribe to AskBobRankin Updates: Free Newsletter
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved
Privacy Policy -- See my profile on Google.
[an error occurred while processing this directive]


Article information: AskBobRankin -- Virtual Kidnapping Scams On The Rise (Posted: 1 Aug 2016)
Source: http://askbobrankin.com/virtual_kidnapping_scams_on_the_rise.html
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved