When the grandparent scam meets virtual kidnappings

By Greg Collier

We love it when scammers get extra creative and combine two scams into one new super-scam. And by love it we actually mean we despise it. At least one creative scammer has combine two of the more disturbing scams, making it an almost infallible scam. Not to heap any more ‘praise’ on this scammer, but they could potentially be the super villain of scam artists.

This particular scammer combined the grandparent scam along with the virtual kidnapping scam. The grandparent scam is more well-known. This is where scammers call elderly victims and pose as a grandchild who is looking for some kind of emergency money. Usually, it’s supposed to be for bail money, but scammers have used various stories to try to get money from their victims.

The virtual kidnapping scam is even more distressing for its victims. This is where scammers will have claimed to have kidnapped one of the victim’s family members. They’ll pressure the victim to keep them on the phone while trying to get them to make a phony ransom payment usually through gift cards or money transfers. Meanwhile, the supposed kidnap victim is actually safe and sound.

This scammer targeted an elderly woman from Alabama. The scammer told the woman that they had her granddaughter hostage because she witnessed a drug deal. The scammer also told her that he was watching her every move. He then instructed her to make a money transfer to Mexico at Walmart. Even though the woman thought the threat was real she did two things that probably saved her from losing substantial amounts of money.

She first tried to locate her granddaughter, and when she couldn’t, she contacted her local police. The woman even bravely stood up to the scammers telling them to bring her granddaughter to the Walmart if they have her. Luck was even more on the woman’s side when the money transfer service at Walmart was down.

In the case of either scam or the new super-scam, your best bet is to try to locate the person who the caller is claiming is in trouble. While a grandchild could potentially have ended up in jail, nothing says that you can’t verify their story. Your grandchild won’t be in more trouble if you do. And as we always like to say about the virtual kidnapping scam, kidnappings for ransom are very rare in the US and the scammers are preying on people’s fears about what they see in entertainment.

Always take a step back from the situation for a moment and try to regain your composure when dealing with these scammers. Also, never volunteer any information like a loved one’s name as scammers will be quick to use that to their advantage.