Scammers Claim Abduction of Children to Trick Parents into Paying Ransom
Their goal is to con parents into thinking that their child is in danger so they'll pay up
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is warning consumers to be on alert for a recent spike of frightening scam phone calls targeting parents.
According to reports, con artists are calling unsuspecting parents and claiming that one of their children has been abducted. The scammer then demands thousands of dollars in ransom money in exchange for the child being returned unharmed.
The scammer will typically demand immediate payment though wire transfer or a pre-paid debit card.
While these con artists will use a variety of tricks to make their story convincing, the ultimate goal is always the same—to trick parents into thinking that their child is in danger so they'll pay up.
Often these scammers will snoop on social media to get details about their victims' lives. They often work in teams. They may have someone pretend to be a friend of the "abductee," or even the son or daughter themselves. Scammers also try to keep victims on the phone until the money is wired. This prevents them from contacting the "abducted" family member.
Know the warning signs of a kidnapping scam:
Be wary of calls from unknown area codes:
The FBI reports that these scams typically come from an outside area code, sometimes from Puerto Rico with area codes (787), (939) and (856).
The caller insists you stay on the phone.
By demanding that you stay on the line, you can't contact the "victim" by another means.
You are pressured to act immediately.
Scammers want you to send money before you've had time to assess the situation.
The "victim" doesn't quite sound like him or herself.
Ask to speak to the victim and listen carefully. It could be someone else impersonating your family member.
Kidnappers want you to wire money or use pre-paid debit card.
Scammers prefer these untraceable ways of sending money.
If you believe that you've been a target of this scam, report the incident to the FBI and your local police department immediately.
Learn more about kidnapping scams from the FBI.