Scammers Scare Parents into Paying Up

Scammers are becoming extremely creative this new scam will blow you away.
June 03, 2016

Parents, watch out for this frightening scam. The FBI says con artists use an array of tricks to convince parents that their children have been abducted. Then, they demand thousands of dollars in ransom. 

How the Scam Works: 

You answer the phone, and it's an unknown caller. This person claims to be holding your son or daughter for ransom. In order for your child to be released unharmed, you need to wire money to the kidnapper -- typically thousands of dollars. 

Don't be scared into paying up. These scams vary, and con artists use a range of tricks to construct a convincing story. Scammers typically snoop on social media to get details about their victims' lives. They often work in teams; they may have someone pretend to be a friend of the "abductee," or even the son or daughter themselves. Scammers also try to keep victims on the phone until the money is wired. This prevents them from contacting the "abducted" family member. 

Warning signs of a kidnap scam

  • Be wary of calls from unknown area codes: The FBI reports that these scams typically come from an outside area code, sometimes from Puerto Rico with area codes (787), (939) and (856).
  • The caller insists you stay on the phone. By demanding that you stay on the line, you can't contact the "victim" by another means. 
  • You are pressured to act immediately. Scammers want you to send money before you've had time to assess the situation. 
  • The "victim" doesn't quite sound like him or herself: Ask to speak to the victim and listen carefully. It could be someone else impersonating your family member. 
  • Kidnappers want you to wire money or use pre-paid debit card. Scammers prefer these untraceable ways of sending money.

Always report threatening calls to the police. Help police find scammers and alert others by reporting these calls. 

For More Information

Learn more about virtual kidnapping scams in this alert from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. 

To find out more about other scams, check out BBB Scam Stopper ( To report a scam, go to BBB Scam Tracker (