Virtual kidnapping is where the caller states that the grandchild has been taken and you need to pay ransom for them to be released. In this situation, no one has actually been kidnapped. The scammer is attempting to use fear and deception to elicit a quick response before the scam falls apart.
The FBI has issued a warning that they have seen an increase in this particular scam. Years ago when this fraud began, Mexican prisoners specifically targeted a small group of people. Now, scammers are targeting anyone. The FBI offers several tips on how to recognize the scam and protect yourself.
Possible Indicators of a Virtual Kidnapping Call
- Scammers will attempt to keep you on the phone
- The calls will not come from the pretend victim’s phone
- They will try to keep you from calling the person who has been “kidnapped”
- The ransom money will need to be paid by wire transfer to Mexico
- The ransom amounts might drop quickly
Possible Options if You Receive a Virtual Kidnapping Call
- Hang up the phone
- Don’t use your loved one’s name
- Ask to speak with the “kidnapped” victim directly. If they do talk, listen to the voice carefully.
- Do not share information about yourself or family
- Ask only questions the “victim” would know
- Attempt to contact the supposed victim and ask them to call you from their cell phone
- Slow the scammers down by repeating their instructions, tell them you need time to get the money together
- Do not agree to pay the ransom demands, by wire transfer or in person. Delivering money in person can be dangerous
If you think a real kidnapping has taken place or you believe you have received a virtual kidnapping scam, call your nearest FBI office or local police immediately. You may also report suspected criminal activity online at tips.fbi.gov.
Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI.gov)