Virtual Kidnapping: What it is and what you can do
Imagine this: Your phone rings. The caller ID flashes a picture and name of a family member. Instead of expecting a greeting from your child or parent, you are verbally accosted and told by a man that he has your loved ones. If you don’t comply with his demands, he will kill your captive.
It’s like watching a scene from the Liam Neeson movie “Taken”, except that this is real life. Your mind will race, and you’ll panic. This is exactly what the kidnapper wants. This situation will not allow you to get your relative back, as he or she was never taken. Virtual kidnapping is a scam that is becoming more sophisticated and popular.
Virtual kidnappers use “spoofing”, to disguise phone numbers and pretend they are your loved ones. To trick their targets, they steal contact lists and monitor social media profiles.
An NBC article claims that Mark Walker, a private investigator, and Eli Walker, his son from Indiana, were such targets. One kidnapper claimed Mark had his daughter. Another kidnapper called Eli, and claimed he had his father.
The virtual kidnapping scam aims to keep the targets panicked so they can be called and tricked into sending money.
The Walker men did exactly as the FBI recommends in the case of Mark & Eli. They reached out to loved ones to confirm that their daughter and father were safe.
According to the FBI the key is to remain calm and keep in touch with kidnappers while checking in on family members by text or having someone else call them. The FBI recommends that verification be done. Ask for a photo right away, or ask questions that cannot be answered online.
Consider the ransom. Because many people are able and willing to pay these ransoms quickly, virtual kidnappers will often ask for $1,000 to $2,000 in ransom. If the kidnapper isn’t able to provide verification or doesn’t demand a large amount, it’s likely that you are dealing with a fraudster.
Regardless of whether the demand is real, or fake, it is important to report all threats to law enforcement.
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