A “Virtual Kidnapping Scam” was attempted this weekend here in our county. The scammers were armed with a wealth of personal information on the subject (likely gleaned from social media). A second attempt was reported to us this morning, so it is a good time to review this scam so that our community is armed with the information needed to prevent being victimized.
First, you receive a call from an unknown number. The scammer says, “I’ve kidnapped your relative,” and names a brother, sister, child or parent. “Send ransom immediately by wire transfer or prepaid card,” they say, “or something bad will happen.” They didn’t kidnap anyone, but they hope you’ll panic and rush to pay ransom before checking the story. To stop you from checking out the story, scammers order you to stay on the phone until the money is sent. There’s pressure to pay quickly, and the caller says not to contact anyone. And, of course, scammers demand payment by wire transfer or prepaid cards, because it’s difficult to trace or recover money sent that way.
The FBI calls this scam virtual kidnapping. Scammers scour the internet and social media sites, grabbing information about where people live, work, or travel, and names of friends and family. The cons use the details to pick a target and make their calls sound credible. To cut down on the information that scammers can find, think about limiting access to your networking pages — and encourage your family to do the same.
If you get a call like this, remember that it’s fake, no matter how scary it sounds. Even if it feels really real, never wire money or pay by prepaid card to anyone who asks you to. If you’re worried about the call, get off the phone and get in touch with the relative or friend in question – just to reassure yourself. And then report it to the FTC. Never hesitate to contact us if you are concerned for a loved ones’ safety our non-emergency number is 941-639-0013.
Information for this article excerpted from www.ftc.gov.