Police in Virginia have been warning the public about an upswing in the phony kidnapping scam.  Among the reported instances of this scam were phony reports of the kidnapping of students at George Mason University and young school children at area parochial schools.

I first warned you about this scam three years ago, but I am doing so again because it is having a resurgence.  The scam starts with a telephone call informing the person answering the phone that a relative has been kidnapped and if they do not respond by wiring money right away, the relative will be killed.  When it comes to many scams, we are often our own worst enemy and this scam is no exception.  In many instances, the scammers gather personal information about the intended scam victims from information that the intended victims  or family members put up on social media.  Armed with this personal information, a scammer can describe the supposed kidnapped victim or provide personal information that would make it appear that indeed they actually do have the person in their custody.  Although recent reports have spiked in Maryland and Virginia, this scam is going on throughout the country.

TIPS

Always be skeptical if you receive such a call.  Never wire money to anyone for anything unless you are totally convinced that what you are doing is legitimate because unlike paying for something with a credit card, once your wired funds have been sent, they are impossible to get back.  Talk to the alleged kidnapper as long as possible, thereby giving someone else with you the time to call  or text the alleged kidnap victim on his or her smartphone.   If the purported kidnapping victim is a young child, call the school to confirm that he or she is safe.   You also could ask the kidnapper to describe your relative as well as provide information, such as his or her birth date, which could be found on a driver’s license, however, it is important to remember that much of this kind of information may be available through social media or elsewhere on the Internet.

Many of these kidnapping scams are originating in Puerto Rico or Mexico so be particularly skeptical if you receive the telephone call from Puerto Rico area codes 787, 939 or 856.  Also be wary of calls from Mexico where the area codes which are quite numerous, but can be found by clicking on this link.  http://dialcode.org/North_America/Mexico/