October 20 2015

Authorities Warn of 'Virtual Kidnapping' Scam

By: Rich Hosford

The Federal Trade Commission [FTC] is warning residents of an aggressive phone scam that is both scaring people and taking their money. 


According to the warning, the FTC has heard from people who got calls from scammers saying, “I’ve kidnapped your relative,” and naming a brother, sister, child or parent. “Send ransom immediately by wire transfer or prepaid card or something bad will happen.”


The FTC says these calls are scams and that nobody has been kidnapped. The hope is the potential victim will panic and pay the ransom before checking the story.  The scammers encourage this by pressuring the victim to stay on the line during the wire transfer and to not contact anybody else. 


“The FBI calls this scam virtual kidnapping,” The FTC statement reads. “Scammers scour the internet and social media sites, grabbing information about where people live, work, or travel, and names of friends and family. The cons use the details to pick a target and make their calls sound credible.”


To cut down on the information that scammers can find, think about limiting access to your networking pages — and encourage your family to do the same, the FTC advises. 


Never post your Social Security number or account numbers online, and only share your phone number with your friends and contacts.


“If you get a call like this, remember that it’s fake, no matter how scary it sounds,” the warning says. “Even if it feels really real, never wire money or pay by prepaid card to anyone who asks you to. If you’re worried about the call, get off the phone and get in touch with the relative or friend in question – just to reassure yourself.” 


You should also report it to the FTC.

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