There's nothing more important than the safety of your loved ones. The thought of anything traumatic happening to them is frightening.
Could you imagine getting a frantic phone call from someone claiming to have kidnapped your child or grandchild? That seems like a scene out of a Hollywood thriller. Unfortunately, there are virtual kidnapping scams going around that could bring this terror to anyone's door.
The FBI is warning everyone that virtual kidnapping scams are on the rise.
What are virtual kidnapping scams?
It's when you receive a phone call and the person on the line tells you that they've kidnapped a loved one and demand a ransom to be paid immediately through wire-transfer. Here's a recent example:
An Illinois woman received a call claiming her daughter had been kidnapped. The alleged kidnapper demanded that she wire them all of the money she had. She ended up sending $6,000 before learning that it was a hoax and her daughter was safe.
The scammer had come across the victim's Facebook account and was able to learn details about her daughter, making the ransom call very realistic. The criminal was able to give detailed information about the victim's daughter, which they had garnered from Facebook.
This is a great example of why you need to be careful about what you share on social media. Click here to learn how to lock down your Facebook account for maximum privacy and security.
Virtual kidnapping scams have been around for decades but used to be limited to southern states that border Mexico. That's not the case anymore. The FBI says that with so much information available through social media, these types of scams are spreading across the U.S. and everyone could potentially be targeted.
FBI suggestions for dealing with virtual kidnappers
To avoid becoming a victim, the FBI said to watch for these possible indicators:
- Callers go to great lengths to keep you on the phone, insisting you remain on the line.
- Calls do not come from the victim's phone.
- Callers try to prevent you from contacting the "kidnapped" victim.
- Multiple successive phone calls.
- Incoming calls made from an outside area code.
- Demands for ransom money to be paid via wire transfer, not in person; ransom demands may drop quickly.
If you receive a phone call from someone demanding a ransom for an alleged kidnap victim, the following course of action should be considered:
- Try to slow the situation down. Request to speak with the victim directly. Ask, "How do I know my loved one is okay?"
- Ask questions only the victim would know, such as the name of a pet. Avoid sharing information about you or your family.
- Listen carefully to the voice of the kidnapped victim if they speak.
- Attempt to call, text, or contact the victim via social media. Request that the victim call back from his or her cellphone.
- To buy time, repeat the caller's request and tell them you are writing down the demand, or tell the caller you need time to get things moving.
- Don't directly challenge or argue with the caller. Keep your voice low and steady.
If you believe you are a victim, FBI crisis negotiators suggest that you try to make contact with family members as quickly as possible, and get yourself to a place that feels safe.
If you have any questions about whether a ransom demand is a scheme or a legitimate kidnapping, contact your nearest FBI office immediately. Tips can also be submitted online at tips.fbi.gov. All tipsters may remain anonymous.
It's extremely important that everyone knows these virtual kidnapping scams are ramping up. Post this article on Facebook so your friends and family can read it. Simply click the share button on the left-hand side of this article.
DID YOU KNOW THAT SCAMMERS WILL NOW CALL YOU FROM YOUR OWN PHONE NUMBER?
With the recent onslaught of robocalls and scams, it's best just to let your phone go to voicemail. It’s a lot tougher to do when your caller ID appears to be from a familiar number or company. But you won't believe this. Scammers are now pretending to be you!