Valley residents targeted in virtual kidnappings

Security consultant Rich Roth

A certain type of kidnapping is on the rise but many people are unaware of it until it happens to them.

"The Valley is a hot bed for this," security consultant Rich Roth said.

Roth is talking about virtual kidnappings.

"They make threats like we have your cousin, your ex-wife," he said.

But in reality, the kidnapping never happened.

This type of crime is happening across the country.

Now Roth is providing services to those targeted right here in the Rio Grande Valley.

"What they are trying to do is extortion," he said.

Tourists in Mexico are often targeted.

We traveled to San Antonio to find out more.

"You might have someone who loses their phone or their cell phone is stolen," FBI spokesperson Michelle Lee said.

Lee said criminals simply look for a number labeled home or mom and make a call demanding cash which can range from $50 to thousands of dollars.

"You would think most people wouldn't fall for them but they do at a surprising rate," she said.

The alleged kidnappers are usually an organized group in Mexico who target tourists, doctors and lawyers in the Valley and Mexican business owners who have fled their country.

"They target people from Mexico because they tend to report crimes less than folks here in the Valley," Roth said.

The victims often have family in Mexico and with violence erupting in Mexico, threats can be believable.

"They are able to exploit those fears that have been instilled in Americans and Mexican nationals that live along the border and are aware of those dangers," Lee said.

There are simple things you can do to avoid this crime.

Things like making your Facebook private and password protecting your phone can go a long way.

The main thing to remember is if you do get a call, don't panic.

"Delay the situation, put off the caller if you they call your cell phone tell them oh my battery is about to die I'm going to have to call you back, that allows you time to assess the situation," Lee said.

Most importantly call police or the FBI, they can advise you on what to do.

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