Warning that virtual kidnapping calls from Mexico are increasing rapidly

Source: latimes.com Release Time: 05:06:53 2019-10-15

Family member kidnapped in Mexico? If you get a call about your mother or brother or grandchild, or are shown a photo, most likely it's all fake. Criminals are doing their best to convince you that it's true, and to fork over cash to pay a ransom.

Virtual kidnapping is when people are told over the phone that a family member has been kidnapped and then, through deception and threats, criminals coerce them to pay a ransom. No one is physically kidnapped in these schemes. But on average, a family sends thousands of dollars to the scammers before contacting law enforcement, the FBI said.

In one case, a man sent $5,000 before finding out his daughter was safe and had not been kidnapped. In the other, a woman called Laguna Beach police before wiring any money and was able to confirm her daughter was safe.

The department provided several tips on how to recognize whether such a call could be a scam:
The call does not come from the supposed kidnapping victim’s phone.
The caller tries to prevent you from contacting the supposed victim.
The caller goes to great lengths to keep you on the line.
The caller demands that ransom be paid via wire transfer to Mexico.
The amount of the ransom demand drops quickly.
If you receive a similar call, the department suggests the following:
Hang up.
Try to contact the supposed kidnapping victim via call, text or social media and request a call back from his or her cellphone.
If you stay on the line with the supposed kidnapper, don’t call out your loved one’s name.
Ask for proof that your loved one is OK and ask to speak to him or her directly.
If the supposed victim speaks, listen carefully to his or her voice.
Ask questions only your loved one would know, such as the name of a pet. Don’t share information about yourself or your family.
Buy time. Repeat the caller’s request, say you are writing it down or tell the caller you need time to get things moving.
Don’t agree to pay a ransom, by wire or in person.
Contact local law enforcement immediately.