There’s a scam that has been around for years, but you may not have heard of it, which is exactly why it can work on some unsuspecting families.
Here’s how it works:
A scammer (in these cases many have been traced back to Mexican jails) will use contraband phones, and “spoofs” the phone so that your child’s phone number and often their photo will pop as an incoming call. The caller will then say that they have kidnapped your child and will not free them until you pay a ransom. They are able to make this scenario seem real by using facts about your child that they have gathered from social media sites (where your child attends school, names of their friends, sports they play, etc). Often they threaten violence if you do not come up with the money or if you report this to the police. They urge you not to hang up and to work as fast as you can to wire the money to a specific location. Often, they will have a person crying or screaming in the background to make it all seem more real.
Project B3 heard about this story on Today.com and these were the tips they shared to keep you safe from a Virtual Kidnapping Scam.
Don’t be a Victim:
1. Slow the conversation down – ask for more time.
2. Choose a code word with your family that people cannot guess from social media.
3. Use “Find My Phone”- see where your child’s phone actually is.
4. Call 911- always report an incident like this.
5. Get ahold of child using a different phone – either by another cell phone or landline.
Project B3 thinks a code word for your family in emergency situations in a good idea, in general. Choose something seemingly random that no one outside your family would ever guess. It may come in handy for various situations, whether it be something as dramatic as a virtual kidnapping or just a signal of “Hey, this is a situation I need help out of, mom.” Also, “Find My Phone” should always be enabled, as it can be very helpful. And media abuse or illegal activity, should ALWAYS be reported to the police. It may be difficult to track down who is responsible, but it is important that these incidents are reported to the proper authorities.