I have been warning you about phony kidnapping scams, also known as virtual kidnapping, for nine years and according to the FBI, the scam is increasing in frequency.  The scam starts with a telephone call informing the person answering the phone that a child or other relative has been kidnapped and if the person receiving the call does not respond by wiring money right away, the relative will be killed.  As with so 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 members of their families post on social media.   Armed with  personal information gathered from social media, 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.

Sometimes the phony kidnappers manipulate your Caller ID through  a technique called “spoofing” to make it appear that the call is coming from the supposedly kidnapped family member’s cell phone which is what happened recently to a family in Aurora, Colorado when Ryan Burcham answered a call that his Caller ID indicated was made from his wife’s phone.  On the line was a virtual kidnapper who demanded a $900 ransom.  In the background Burcham could hear a woman crying.  Burcham was frantic and paid the ransom which fortunately, he was able to get back when he quickly called his wife after electronically paying the ransom.  His wife who was safe the entire time knew nothing of the phony kidnapping.

Many of the fake kidnapping scams, according to the FBI. are originating with calls from Mexican prisons, where in most instances the calls are being made by prisoners who have bribed guards to supply them with cell phones.


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. It also can be helpful for the family to have a code word to use to immediately recognize that this is a scam. If the kidnapper can’t provide the code word, it is clear that it is a scam.

Many of these kidnapping scams are originating in Mexico so be particularly skeptical if you receive the telephone call from Mexico which has many area codes which can be found by clicking on this link.  http://dialcode.org/North_America/Mexico/  Other hotspots for this scam have been in Taiwan and Cuba.

For those of you receiving the Scam of the day through an email, I just want to remind you that if you want to see the ever increasing list of Coronavirus scams go to the first page of the http://www.scamicide.com website and click on the tab at the top of the page that indicates “Coronavirus Scams.”  Scamicide has been cited by the New York Times as one of three top sources for information about Coronavirus related scams.

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