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Imagine you’re sitting at home. The phone rings. You hear a quiet, scared voice on the other end…
“Mom, I’m in a van, some guys grabbed me and pulled me in, and I don’t know where I’m at.”
Next, a man’s voice comes on…
“Your daughter seen me and my son doing things that she shouldn’t have seen.”
This is followed by instructions and various warnings about what will happen if you don’t fully cooperate.
Some parents have been facing this exact scenario as a new, and terrifying “kidnapping” scam gains momentum. And it is doing so because every parents first instinct is ‘protect your children at all costs’.
The FBI is aware of the scam, and have released a list of ways to avoid this horrifying situation.
First, look for these indicators…
- Incoming calls come from an outside area code, sometimes from Puerto Rico with area codes (787), (939) and (856).
- Calls do not come from the alleged kidnapped victim’s phone.
- Callers go to great lengths to keep you on the phone.
- Callers prevent you from calling or locating the “kidnapped” victim.
- Ransom money is only accepted via wire transfer service.
If you receive a phone call from someone who demands payment of a ransom for a kidnapped victim, the following should be considered…
- Try to slow the situation down. Request to speak to the victim directly. Ask, “How do I know my loved one is okay?”
- If the callers don’t let you speak to the victim, ask them to describe the victim or describe the vehicle the victim drives, if applicable.
- Listen carefully to the voice of the kidnapped victim if he/she speaks.
- Attempt to call, text, or contact the alleged victim via social media. Request that the victim call back from his or her cell phone.
- While staying on the line with the alleged kidnappers, try to call the alleged kidnap victim from another phone.
- To buy time, repeat the caller’s request and tell them you are writing. down the demand, or tell the caller you need additional time to meet their demands.
- Don’t directly challenge or argue with the caller. Keep your voice low and steady.
- Request the alleged kidnapper allow the victim to call you back from his/her cell phone.
- At the earliest opportunity, notify your local police department.
To help prevent this scam, check privacy settings on social media accounts for both you and your children. Warn your kids about the hazards of ‘oversharing’ on social media. The more information available to the public, the more information these scammers can use to convince you into believing their lies are real.
Familiarize yourself with your cell phone, and the easiest way to call 9-1-1. You should also have the phone number for your local police (and all emergency services) listed in your contacts.
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