“Virtual Kidnapping” and Extortion Scams are on the Rise
Scams are running rampant lately. Whether they're dealing with a stimulus check, tax return, UPS packages, or even court dates, the bad guys will find a way to try and outsmart you out of your goods. Check out our "Scam Round-Up" for more info on some of the scams that's been hitting the Yakima Valley recently. A new one has been on the rises, something that you thought was just seen on TV and movies, but now it's happening in our area. Extortion by "Virtual Kidnapping"! Thanks to the Selah Police Department for bringing this new wave of scams to light.
“Virtual Kidnapping” and Extortion Scams are on the rise in the Yakima Valley. Selah Police Officers recently took two such reports from members of our community. Although these extortion schemes have been around for many years, the criminals’ tactics are becoming more sophisticated, and the Selah Police Department wants to raise public awareness to help individuals from falling victim to these types of crimes.How the Scam Works: An unknown caller pretends to have kidnapped the victim’s child, who may be crying hysterically in the background. The sobbing child says they were kidnapped and then a man gets on the phone and says, if you want to see your child again, you need to pay a ransom. The “Kidnapper” conducts an elaborate scheme to keep the victim on the phone, directing them to act quickly or else the child (who is still crying in the background) will be injured or killed.One reason why this crime is becoming more prevalent is the scammers’ ability to collect information about individuals and their activities through social media networks. They know when an individual is going to be away from home and perhaps in a situation where they could be at risk. The caller’s approach is forceful, well-scripted, and can be very convincing.When the “kidnapper” uses a child’s name, a parent’s fear level escalates very quickly. The caller might have found the child’s name on social media or the parent might have unwittingly told the caller the child’s name. The caller relies on shock, speed and fear. Criminals know they have a small window of opportunity to extract a ransom before the victim realizes it’s a scam or law enforcement becomes involved.
To avoid becoming a victim, look for these possible indicators:• The call does not originate from the “kidnapped” person’s phone.• The caller goes to great lengths to keep you on the phone, so you can’t verify their claims.• The ransom money must be paid by wire, PayPal, MoneyGram or another service.• The ransom amount quickly decreases if the parent or loved one resists.
If you receive a phone call from someone demanding ransom for a loved one, consider the following:• If you suspect a real kidnapping is taking place, call 911 to report the crime.• If you suspect the call is a scam, hang up the phone. If you engage the caller, do not call out your loved one’s name, and try to slow down the interaction.• Request to speak with your family member directly. Ask, “How do I know my loved one is OK? Ask questions only the alleged kidnap victim would know such as the name of a family pet or a pre-determined safe word. Avoid sharing information about yourself or your family.• Attempt to contact the “kidnapped” victim via phone, text, or social media, and request they call back from their own cell phone.• To buy time, repeat the caller’s requests and tell them you are writing down the demands or tell the caller you need time to get things moving.