Don’t Be a Victim of a Virtual Kidnapping Scam

October 13, 2017

Some of the newest scams are coming straight out of the movies. One in particular is called virtual kidnapping. The scheme starts by the scammer contacting you via phone call, email, or text claiming that they’ve kidnapped one of your loved ones and will return them safely once their ransom is paid. But here’s the thing, they don’t have your loved one and they’re probably not anywhere near loved ones. The scammer’s main goal is to prey on your sense of urgency and create an enormous amount of stress to get you to act without thinking, “Does this make sense?”.

It’s possible that the scammer will say that they’re a part of a gang or corrupt police officer and that your loved one owes them money for an illegal transaction to deter you from contacting the police. They could go as far as having an accomplice in the background screaming to further convince you that your loved one is with them and in danger of being harmed.

The FBI of Oregon offers the following advice to protect yourself from this scam:

  • “Be cautious about what you post on social media. Consider waiting to post about foreign travel until after you return. Some scammers call every number with a certain area code, but others research their targets.
  • Let the people close to you know when you will be traveling to places without cell service or Internet connection.
  • Know the red flags: Did the call come from a phone other than the victim’s? Was the call from an area code far from where your loved one lives? Did the caller insist that the ransom had to be paid by wire transfer? Did he try to keep you on the phone? 

For more tips, go to FBI Tech Tuesday: Building a Digital Defense Against Virtual Kidnapping Scams

Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation

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