Brownsville police: Don’t fall victim to ‘virtual kidnapping’
The Brownsville Police Department is warning residents to not fall victim to “virtual kidnapping.”
Police said a Brownsville family recently fell victim to the common phone scam.
In the scam that was reported to police, the suspect’s audio recorded the target family member while extorting money from them claiming they had a second target in their custody. The suspects would use the voice recording of target 1 to trick the second family member into believing their first target was being held captive.
Police say whether it is a “virtual kidnapping” scam or the “relative” claiming they need bail money, be very careful, hang up and call the alleged family member to make sure they’re okay and never wire money to anyone you don’t know.
Here are some tips you can follow from police and the FBI:
“Virtual kidnapping takes on many forms, it is always an extortion scheme – one that tricks victims into paying a ransom to free a loved one they believe is being threatened with violence or death,”.
Police said the calls are random and could come at any point, day or night. The caller will usually say they’ve kidnapped a relative and wants money wired over in exchange for their release. Through social media, they can even identify the relative by name, making the call even more credible.
To avoid becoming a victim, the FBI said, people should be aware of the following:
- Callers go to great lengths to keep you on the phone, insisting you remain on the line.
- Calls do not come from the supposed victim’s phone.
- Callers try to prevent you from contacting the “kidnapped” victim.
- Calls include demands for ransom money to be paid via wire transfer to Mexico; ransom amount demands may drop quickly.
If you receive a call from someone demanding a ransom for an alleged kidnap victim, the FBI says, consider the following:
- In most cases, the best course of action is to hang up the phone.
- If you do engage the caller, don’t call out your loved one’s name.
- Try to slow the situation down. Ask to speak to 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 pet. Avoid sharing information about yourself or your family.
- Listen carefully to the voice of the alleged victim if the person speaks.
- Attempt to contact the alleged victim via phone, text, or social media, and ask the person to call back from their cell phone.
- To buy time, repeat the caller’s request and tell the person you are writing down the demand, or tell the caller you need time to get things moving.
- Don’t agree to pay a ransom, by wire or in person. Delivering money in person can be dangerous.