Kidnapping scam targets families of missing migrants

By Greg Collier

Whenever we discuss the kidnapping scam, we always like to remind our readers that kidnappings for ransom are quite rare in the United States. But what if you were from a country where kidnappings happened often enough to make the scam seem more believable? That is exactly what is happening to families who live in the US who have family members trying to cross our southern border.

For those of you who may not know, the kidnapping scam is when a scammer calls you and tries to convince you that a loved one has been kidnapped. Often, they’ll also put someone on the phone who sounds like they’re in distress, who is supposed to be your loved one. The scammers will then demand payment it gift cards, cryptocurrency, money transfer or some other form of untraceable payment. Now, this scam is being perpetrated on those who have had loved ones go missing while trying to cross the border from Mexico into the United States.

NBC News has relayed a story from a New Jersey woman whose brother was trying to come here from Ecuador to make a better life for himself and his family. After he crossed the border into the United States, he got lost in the Texas desert before the battery on his cell phone ran out.

Two months after her brother disappeared, she posted his picture and her contact information on a Facebook page for missing migrants. It wasn’t long before the woman was contacted by scammers claiming to have her brother. They are said to have sent her a picture of her brother holding a sign with that day’s date on it. Then they sent her a video of someone who was supposed to be her brother, but the man’s face was partially covered. The scammers demanded $5000 in ransom which she paid through money transfers. Then all communication with the supposed kidnappers stopped. Her brother is still missing.

It turned out that the photograph used was photoshopped, and the details the scammers knew about the woman’s brother were taken from social media.

In 2021, almost 700 migrants died trying to cross the border. That was an increase of over 300% from the previous year, and that’s only the deaths that we know about. There could be countless others.

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot that the families in America can do to prevent this scam outside of not posting their information to social media, but sometimes, family members are found this way. The woman from the story regrets not having her brother call 911 before she lost contact with him. In this instance, it’s better to be picked up by Border Protection than being left to fend for themselves in the desert.