Scammers Falsely Claim Abduction of Children in Order to Trick Parents Into Paying Ransom
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Scammers Falsely Claim Abduction of Children in Order to Trick Parents Into Paying Ransom

The scammers' goal is to con parents into thinking that their child is in danger so they'll pay up a hefty sum of money

June 21, 2021

Be alert for frightening scam calls targeting parents. Con artists call unsuspecting parents claiming that one of their children has been abducted. The scammer then demands ransom money in exchange for the child being returned unharmed. While these con artists will use a variety of tricks to make their story convincing, their ultimate goal is always to trick parents into paying thousands of dollars.

Where do they get their info

Often these scammers will snoop on social media to get details about their victims' lives, often working in teams. They may have someone pretend to be a friend of the "abductee," or even the kidnapped son or daughter themselves. Scammers also try to keep victims on the phone until the money is wired or gift cards secured, preventing them from contacting the "abducted" family member, another family member, or the police.

Be wary of calls from unknown area codes

The FBI reports that these scams typically come from an area code outside your local area, and sometimes from Puerto Rico with area codes (787), (939) and (856). You should always be extra cautious of phone calls that show up on caller ID as unknown numbers or with unusual area codes.

caller insists you stay on the phone

By demanding that you stay on the line, you can't call your child or anyone else to help. That doesn't mean you can't send a text message, but the caller will work to keep you engaged and your emotions raised.

pressure to act immediately

Scammers want you to send money before you've had time to assess the situation, which is one reason they keep you on the phone and engaged. It's very similar to how a salesperson will pressure you into making a purchase quickly, before you've had time to think about it and compare options. Resist the pressure and slow things down.

The "victim" doesn't quite sound right

If you are permitted to speak to the victim, listen carefully. It could easily be someone else impersonating your family member. When your emotions are raised and you're under heavy pressure, you might miss subtle nuances or simply accept as true whatever is put before you. If it doesn't sound right it's not right.

told to wire money or buy pre-paid gift card.

Scammers prefer untraceable ways of sending money, which is why you will very often be pressured into buying gift cards in various amounts that you will then provide to the caller. They may even stay on the phone with you while you make the purchase to ensure you complete the transaction and that no one interferes. Any time you are asked to provide these types of payment, you're almost certainly being scammed and should hang up.