Virtual Kidnapping, once thought to only happen in Mexico and nearby Southwestern border states, has been around for decades.  Most recently, however, there have been several cases reported throughout the U.S.  Residents anywhere can now be potential victims.  But, it’s not an abduction; virtual kidnappers have not actually taken anyone, instead, the FBI says, through deceptions and threats, they coerce victims to pay a quick ransom before the scheme falls apart.

This extortion scheme utilizes social media to learn your child’s name and information. These calls can come from unknown numbers or they may be spoof calls from the child’s actual number. These unsuspecting parents may hear struggling in the background or a child even calling out for help. This is designed to make you panic and keep you on the phone. They threaten to harm the subject if you attempt to call anyone or hang up.

The FBI has found that most of these calls are coming from inmates in Mexican prisons along with partners in the United States. They often ask for payments in gift cards and because they are using burner phones, they are nearly impossible to track.

The FBI lists some tips to help you to avoid becoming the victim of this crime

  • Try to slow the call down
  • Try to get a hold of your loved one on a different phone
  • Ask questions only your child would know
  • Call the police