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  • Geebo 9:00 am on January 19, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Pittsburgh, , , virtual kidnapping   

    Kidnapping scam uses your social media against you 

    By Greg Collier

    The Pittsburgh Field Office of the FBI has issued a warning about the virtual kidnapping scam. This scam entails scammers calling people and telling them that they’ve kidnapped a loved one. The scammers may put someone on the phone crying and screaming to make it seem like they actually have taken your loved one hostage. A ransom demand is then made where the scammers will ask for payment through money transfer, gift cards, or cryptocurrency. They ask for these types of payments because they’re mostly untraceable. It’s typically not until after the victim sends the scammers money when they find out their loved one was never in any harm.

    The FBI is now reporting an uptick in this scam in the Pittsburgh area. Recently, 450 people have reported receiving these scam calls. However, the scammers are using a new ploy to try to trick their victims. Scammers are now calling the relatives of people who travel to somewhere near the Mexican border. The perpetrators are combing through social media looking for anyone who has recently shared that they’re planning a trip either to or near Mexico. Then the scammers are calling the relatives of the traveler from Mexico and claiming that they’ve kidnapped the victim’s relative.

    The best way to protect yourself and your family from this scam is to not announce your vacation plans ahead of time on social media. Your first instinct may be to share your vacation pictures as they happen, but this could open you up to a number of scams and dangers, including this one. If you receive a call from Mexico and the caller says they’ve kidnapped a relative of yours, the FBI advises getting as much information you can, including the phone number they called from. It’s then recommended you hang up the call and contact the supposed kidnap victim to make sure they’re ok. Then call your local police or the FBI to file a report.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on January 6, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , virtual kidnapping   

    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.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on November 18, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , virtual kidnapping   

    Florida father falls victim to kidnapping scam 

    By Greg Collier

    Even after all this time, we still get comments from readers who claim that they would never fall for any of the scams we’ve discussed. While that may be true, we still maintain that anyone can fall victim to a scam if the circumstances are right. For every victim that falls for a scam, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of attempts by scammers that fail. While the odds may be in your favor that you won’t fall for a scam, they’re never at zero, as one man from Florida recently found out.

    The man from the Tampa Bay area was busy working as a DJ at a local wedding when he received two phone calls. One was from his 17-year-old daughter and the other was from Mexico. He couldn’t answer the calls at the time since he was working. However, he received a second call from Mexico and answered it since he had family that were vacationing there.

    The caller claimed that he got into a fender bender with the man’s daughter and took her hostage, since the caller claimed to be carrying a substantial amount of drugs. The caller even put what sounded like a young woman crying on the phone. Then the caller demanded the man leave the wedding and wire him $1500 to get his daughter back. The man went to a local supermarket, where he wired money to the scammer. At that point, the call ended. The man called his wife, and she was able to verify that their daughter was safe and had not been kidnapped. The man even stated to local media that this was a perfect storm of circumstances that allowed him to fall victim to the scam.

    This scam is known as the virtual kidnapping scam and according to local police, this scam finds victims around 5-10 times a week in the Tampa area. The FBI has even said that the virtual kidnapping scam is the scam with the third-highest number of victims nationwide.

    As we often tell our readers, actual kidnappings for ransom in the United States are actually quite rare. If you are ever unfortunate enough to receive a one of these calls, try to keep calm. We know that’s easier said than done. Even if the caller is keeping you on the call, find a way to contact the person that the callers are claiming to have kidnapped, or someone who can verify their whereabouts. You should also contact your local police department.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on September 27, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , virtual kidnapping   

    Did Venmo lead to a kidnapping scam? 

    Did Venmo lead to a kidnapping scam?

    By Greg Collier

    As we have said previously, payment apps like Venmo are a great convenience for consumers. Venmo allows its users to make payments to friends and family or make a purchase without having to carry cash. However, it has a peculiar feature that’s enabled by default, and that’s the user’s public feed. It allows just about anyone to see a user’s Venmo activity, such as whom they paid and how much. The feed can be made private, but many users don’t even know the feed even exists. The feed has been used in a number of Venmo-related scams, but this is the first time we can recall it being used in such a harrowing scam.

    A woman from Georgia received a phone call that came up in her caller ID as coming from her mother. Somehow, the scammers were able to ascertain her mother’s phone number and spoofed it. The scammers claimed they were in her mother’s house and were holding her mother hostage. They demanded $2500 to be paid through Venmo. She only had $500 in her account, and the scammers accepted that. Meanwhile, the woman’s boyfriend was on the phone with the woman’s brother, who was at the mother’s home at the time and verified no kidnapping was taking place. However, the woman had already sent the scammers the money, and Venmo makes it easy to block users once the transfer has been made. It’s believed that the scammers knew she was a Venmo user by guessing random usernames to see if that brings up a public feed. The woman had just used Venmo that day.

    As you may know, this is known as a virtual kidnapping scam, and it has become prevalent over the past few years. If you were to receive a phone call like this, your initial reaction may be to believe what you’re being told. However, kidnappings for money are actually very rare in the United States. What you should do is try to get in contact with the person who has been supposedly kidnapped, either through using a different phone to call them or some other means of communication. You can also ask to speak to the supposed hostage and ask them a question only they would know.

    Scammers often use fear as a tactic to get their victims to give them exorbitant amounts of money. However, if you have the knowledge to thwart them, you’ll have nothing to fear.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on August 26, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: deeds, Donda, Kanye West, , , , unclaimed reward, virtual kidnapping   

    Scam Round Up: House Deeds, Kanye, and more 

    Scam Round Up: House Titles, Kanye, and more

    By Greg Collier

    We’re back again with a handful of scams that may require your attention. This week, we’re bringing you four scams that have popped up around the country.

    ***

    If you own a home, and you want a copy of your home’s deed, you shouldn’t have to pay to get it. In most counties, you can get a copy of your deed for free at your county’s Register of Deeds’ office, or your county’s equivalent. If there is any cost attached to obtaining your deed, it should only be for the copier and not cost $95. In Tennessee, residents have been receiving letters saying they can get their deed for a $95 fee. Deeds are public records, and the scammers wait for changes to be made to them before sending out the letters offering their service. While not necessarily illegal, if you get one of these letters, shred it and toss it in the recycling.

    ***

    We’re not sure how many of are readers are fans of Kanye West, but he’s been teasing a new album drop for a while now. Scammers are quite aware of this and are using the new album to their advantage. Scammers are setting up websites where they claim you can download Kanye’s new album entitled ‘Donda’. As you might expect, the files you end up downloading contain malware, which can do any number of malicious things to your device. As with any popular media, if you’re purchasing it online, stick to reputable distributors like Apple and Amazon and avoid the shady bootleg sites.

    ***

    Police in Hillsboro, Texas have reported a significant increase in virtual kidnapping calls. Residents there have been receiving phone calls that tell them a loved one has been kidnapped. They’re then instructed to go to Walmart to await further instructions. The scammers will then have the victim send the ‘ransom’ through a money transfer service like MoneyGram that is untraceable once the scammers have their money. If you ever receive a call like this, try not to panic. Instead, reach out to the supposed kidnap victim, and you’ll probably find that they’re ok. You should also notify your local police as well.

    ***

    Lastly, from North Carolina, we have a scam where a man received a letter in the mail that said he had an ‘unclaimed reward’ that was worth $100. The man called the number in the letter and was asked to confirm his identity. He was then asked for his credit card number to pay to have the reward shipped. Thankfully, the man didn’t fall for the scam, but it only takes a handful of people to fall for the scam before it becomes profitable for the scammer.

    ***

    The more people are aware of scams like these, the better prepared they are to prevent them. Please consider sharing this and any of our posts with your friends and family.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on June 25, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Amber Alert, Manchester, New Hampshire, , virtual kidnapping   

    Virtual kidnapping scam triggers Amber Alert 

    Police doing fine without Backpage

    By Greg Collier

    Virtual kidnapping scams are one of the more frightening scams that we discuss. If you’re unaware of how the scam works, you could be ticked into believing that a family member or loved one is in grave danger. The con, of course, is to get you to pay a ransom even though the person who was supposedly kidnapped is fine and isn’t aware of what’s going on. Recently, we posted a story about how a virtual kidnapping call resulted in a potentially volatile situation between the victim and a SWAT team. So, while the supposed kidnapping victim is safe, the scam victim could have their well-being put in jeopardy.

    One such incident recently happened in Manchester, New Hampshire. A victim received a phone call saying that a woman they knew had been kidnapped. In reality, that woman was away from home with her 4-year-old son. While the details are unclear, this resulted in the Manchester police issuing a statewide Amber Alert for both the mother and child. Part of the alert was a description of the woman’s car. The pair was found unharmed, and the mother was completely unaware of what had transpired. She had to have been shaken up when she was informed of the Amber Alert. Incidents like can end up leaving all victims involved with lasting trauma.

    When we first started posting about virtual kidnapping scams, we came across a piece of information that was relayed by law enforcement that we like to remind our readers with these stories. Kidnapping for ransom is very rare in the United States. It seems like it would happen more due to the number of times it appears in TV shows and movies.

    If you ever receive one of these calls, stay on the call, but try to get in touch with the person the scammers have claimed to have kidnapped. Ask to speak to the person they’re claiming to hold hostage and ask them a question that only they would know. You should also be suspicious if they try to get you to make the ransom payment through gift cards or money transfers.

    Since this scam keeps finding victims and the situations involved are starting to get out of hand, we ask that you please share this story or any virtual kidnapping story with your friends and family. The more people who know about the scam, scammers will find fewer victims.

     
  • Geebo 8:00 am on June 11, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , SWAT, , virtual kidnapping   

    Virtual kidnapping scam brings out SWAT team 

    Virtual kidnapping scam brings out SWAT team

    By Greg Collier

    Victims of virtual kidnapping scams often get the police involved since many victims aren’t aware this is a scam. Police are then able to assist the victim by letting them know it’s a scam and are also able to locate the person who’s been supposedly kidnapped. However, an entire SWAT team is not normally called out for a virtual kidnapping scam. But that’s what happened to a father and son recently, in Virginia.

    For new readers, a virtual kidnapping is called that because no one is actually being held hostage. The scammers will call a victim and tell the victim that they’ve kidnapped one of the victim’s loved ones. The scammers will then demand a ransom that can be paid either through gift cards or money transfers. The scammers will try to keep the victim on the phone to prevent them from reaching out to that loved one or the police.

    A virtual kidnapping scammer also started a flashpoint event in Bristol, Virginia when they contacted a father and son truck driving team. The pair were driving through Virginia when the son received a phone call from a phone number in Mexico that his son had been taken hostage. The truck drivers were instructed to stay on the phone and not communicate with anyone else. They were then instructed to go to a Walmart to make a money transfer.

    Since the father and son didn’t contact the trucking company they work for, the trucking company contacted Virginia State Police. The VSP found the pair at the Bristol Walmart but the pair we’re being uncooperative because they thought if they talked to the police the man’s son would be harmed. When it was determined that this may have been a hostage situation, a SWAT team and a K9 officer was called in.

    Eventually, the situation was deescalated, and the truck drivers were relieved to find out that the man’s son was fine. But this situation had the potential to go very wrong, and if lives had been lost not only would the scammers not care, but they would have disappeared into the wind.

    If you ever receive a phone call like this, try to get someone else on another phone to contact the person that the scammers have claimed to kidnap. Ask to speak to the person they’re claiming to hold hostage and ask them a question that only they would know. You may also want to set up a code word with family members that they can give if they’re actually in trouble.

     
  • Geebo 8:17 am on May 27, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , virtual kidnapping   

    Kidnapping scam becomes even scarier 

    Kidnapping scam becomes even scarier

    By Greg Collier

    The reason the virtual kidnapping scam is named that way is because the kidnapping victim is virtual. In essence, there is no kidnapping victim. However, that hasn’t stopped scammers from scaring families into making ransom payments for someone who was never in any danger. For new readers, in this scam, the scammers will call someone and claim to have kidnapped one of their loved ones. The scammers will even have someone screaming or crying in the background to make the call seem real. The victim of the scam will then be instructed to make a payment through untraceable means like gift cards, money transfer, prepaid debit card, or cryptocurrency. By the time the victim figures out that there was no kidnapping, the scammers are long gone with the victim’s money.

    Unfortunately, not everyone has been educated about this scam. Recently, a couple in South Florida received such a call telling them that their daughter had been kidnapped. The callers made threatened to murder their daughter if they didn’t pay $1500 in ransom. What made this call particularly terrifying was that the call appeared to be coming from the daughter’s phone. It wasn’t, though. The scammers had spoofed the daughter’s phone number which is concerning in itself. Luckily, the couple reached out to a friend they have in law enforcement who informed them this was a scam. It’s unknown how the scammers were able to obtain the daughter’s phone number.

    Scammers use tactics like this to catch you off guard to say the least. They want you to think emotionally rather than logically. The more emotionally charged the scenario is, the more likely the scammers are able to convince a victim into making a payment. If you ever receive a call like this don’t give the scammers any personal information. If they say they have your daughter, for example, don’t say your daughter’s name. Then have someone else contact the person the callers claim to have kidnapped. More often than not, that person will be just fine and will have no idea that people are claiming that they’re holding them hostage.

    Remember, kidnapping for ransom in the United States is extremely rare, but is kept in the public’s consciousness thanks to popular media.

     
  • Geebo 8:04 am on March 17, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , virtual kidnapping, ,   

    Woman thwarts virtual kidnapping scam 

    Woman thwarts virtual kidnapping scam

    By Greg Collier

    We often talk about how someone gets taken advantage of in a scam and use it as a way to educate our readers on how to avoid scams. It’s not very often we discuss someone who realized it was a scam before they end up losing thousands of dollars, but that’s the story we have today.

    A woman in Spokane, Washington received a phone call with someone claiming that her sister had been injured and that the woman needed to come get her. She asked the person on the other line if police had been involved yet and the caller’s disposition quickly changed.

    The caller then said that the woman’s sister ‘stuck her nose where it didn’t belong’ and that he needed to ‘rough her up a little’. The caller then demanded a $10,000 ransom, or he was going to sell the woman’s sister to a human trafficking ring overseas. Then the caller threatened violence against the woman if she didn’t cooperate.

    The Spokane woman asked to speak to her sister and a woman got on the line and mentioned the woman’s name, but that was about it. The woman wasn’t convinced that was her sister. She asked to talk to her some more to verify a few things, but the caller refused. She told the caller that they wouldn’t get any money unless she saw her sister. It was when the caller asked her to wire money to them, she realized it was a scam.

    We have to applaud this woman for being so tenacious about getting proof that this was actually her sister or not. In addition, she did the right things when confronted with a scam like this. She demanded verifiable proof and when she didn’t get it she stood up to the scammers.

    If you encounter this situation, there are also a few other things you can do. One is to ask the person who’s supposedly kidnapped a question that only they would know. Additionally, you can set up a safe word in advance. However, the first thing you should do, if you can, is try to contact the person they’ve supposedly kidnapped. In most if not all cases, you’ll find that the person is safe and sound.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on March 4, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: alaska, , , , , virtual kidnapping   

    Scammers use missing persons to commit fraud 

    Scammers use missing persons to commit fraud

    By Greg Collier

    We’ve often said that scammers will stoop to any lengths to try to get one over on their victims. We also say that scammers will try to take advantage of any kind of tragedy to make a quick buck. Now, think of one of the worst tragedies that can befall a family. Then imagine that family having to deal with a scammer that’s trying to take advantage of that tragedy. That’s what’s been happening to many families in Alaska.

    Due to the sheer amount of untamed wilderness that Alaska has, the state has an inordinate amount of missing persons cases per capita. This has led to scammers trying to extort money out of the families involved in these cases. Even we were taken aback when we read about this scam as it’s beyond cruel.

    The scammers take to social media looking for posts that deal with a missing person. They’ll then use that information to contact the missing person’s family. The scammers will say that they are holding the missing person hostage and that the missing person is now ill. The family will be instructed not to contact police and that their loved one will be released if they make a ransom payment. The ransom payment is then demanded to be paid through a payment app like PayPal or Cash App.

    This is a variation of the virtual kidnapping scam with the only difference being is that the person being used in the scam is actually missing. The reason this particular scam is doubly cruel is that not only are the scammers harassing an already distraught family but in some cases, it’s giving them a false sense of hope that they may be getting their family member back.

    Whenever one of these scams come up, we like to remind our readers that kidnapping for ransom is actually very rare in the US.

    We hope that anyone reading this never has to deal with a missing person in their family. However, if the unthinkable happens, and then you receive a scam call like this, you should contact your local police immediately.

     
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