Virtual kidnapping scam back on the rise

Virtual kidnapping scam back on the rise

With some aspects of life returning to normal, it seems that scammers are returning to their same old tricks. While COVID-19 related scams are still being perpetrated, we’ve seen a trend where scammers appear to be going back to scams they’ve run prior to the pandemic.

One of those scams is the virtual kidnapping scam. This is when a scammer will call a victim and tell them that they’ve kidnapped a loved one. The scammers will then demand a ransom either through wire transfer, gift cards, or other hard to trace payment options. The reality of this scam is that nobody has been actually kidnapped and the scammers are hoping the fear generated in the situation will cause the victim to pay the phony ransom.

Recently, in New Mexico, the state police there have reported an uptick in these virtual kidnappings. The scammers here are instructing their victims to send money through transfer services like MoneyGram or Western Union. The scammers use these services since they can usually collect the money almost anonymously before disappearing or collect it overseas where US law enforcement can’t reach them. The kidnapping calls in New Mexico are said to be originating in Mexico. A sheriff’s office in Oklahoma is also reporting that this scam is taking hold there as well.

If you ever receive one of these phone calls, try to use another phone to try to contact the person the scammers they’ve claimed to have kidnapped. The scammers will try to pressure you into paying the phony ransom while trying to keep you on the phone. Failing that, ask to speak to the purported kidnapping victim and ask them a question only that person would know.

While it may seem like high pressure situation, keep in mind that kidnappings for ransom in the United States are rare. Take a moment to collect yourself so you can think rationally. However, you should take down as much information as possible in case it turns out to be an actual kidnapping. If not, you can use the information to forward to the police.