Virtual Kidnapping Scams On The Rise
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?”
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...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 1 Aug 2016
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Virtual Kidnapping Scams On The Rise (Posted: 1 Aug 2016)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved