The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department is alerting the public to a new scheme that is targeting people nationwide, as well as local residents.
These events are referred to as virtual kidnappings. In this scheme, individuals call claiming to have kidnapped a family member, usually a child, while no actual kidnapping has taken place. The caller tells the victim that they have the family member, threatens to harm or kill them and then makes a ransom demand to be paid, typically via wire transfer.
The suspects often even use children as decoys in the scheme and have the child crying in the background and yelling for mommy or daddy that they need help. In some of the more elaborate hoaxes, the suspects have used social media to learn more about the victims prior to the phone call being made.
A Las Vegas woman says she got one of the calls while at work Monday.
She says her call came from Mexico.
The victims have been told to withdraw and wire anywhere between several hundred and several thousand dollars.
Typically, the suspect will try to keep the victim on the phone until the transaction is completed and before the parent has a chance to confirm that their child is OK. Later the victim learns that their child or relative was never kidnapped or in any harm in the first place.
To avoid becoming a victim of this extortion scheme, look for the following possible indicators:
• Incoming calls are usually from an unknown or international phone number.
• Callers go to great lengths to keep the victim on the phone.
• The suspect will demand the money to be wired electronically.
• Victim is prevented from calling or locating the “kidnap victim.”
• Most of the time the suspect will not know specific information about the alleged kidnap victim including names. However, consider that some of this info can be gleaned from your social media activity.
If you receive a phone call from someone who demands payment of ransom for a kidnapped victim, consider the following:
• Try to slow the conversation down and request to speak directly with the alleged kidnap victim.
• Listen very carefully to the voice of the kidnapped victim if they speak.
• Do not divulge any information about the alleged kidnap victim.
• Attempt to contact/locate the family member who has been alleged to have been kidnapped.
• Contact the police.