Forewarned is Forearmed
16th Century Proverb
Did you know that virtual kidnapping is as pervasive as telemarketing?
(It’s crazy the things you learn while researching your next thriller novel. Virtual kidnapping is a topic I explored during research for my book, Flight 12: A Jess Kimball Thriller.)
Here’s how virtual kidnapping works. Typically, the scam artist calls you and tells you they’ve kidnapped your loved one, which is not true. They make the call at a time when they know you won’t be in contact with your loved one.
For example, they may call a parent while a child is at school or traveling on a field trip.
The scam artist then says they’re holding the victim hostage, and they demand you follow their instructions or the so-called (nonexistent) kidnapping victim will be harmed.
Or, sometimes, they call the loved one first, posing as a telephone company representative, tell the person to turn off their phone for a few minutes for a technical reason, and during that time they make the extortion call.
Here are some tips to avoid becoming a victim of virtual kidnapping:
- If the caller will only accept the money via wire transfer service, it’s bad news. According to the FBI, that is typically the only way virtual kidnappers want to receive their payments.
- If the calls are never made from the so-called victim’s phone, chances are, the kidnapping is a fake.
- Oftentimes, the people who are making these calls speak from a script. If the caller sounds like a telemarketer, it might be a scam.
- And finally, just because you might hear a crying, whimpering, or screaming voice in the background of the phone call, it doesn’t mean it’s the real deal. These are often large-scale extortion schemes. The criers are co-conspirators. They’re actors.
The New York Times offers a suggestion that may seem obvious to us right now, but it’s something you may not think of if you’re the panicked recipient of a virtual kidnapping phone call: Try calling your loved one. Maybe they actually where they are supposed to be, and maybe they’re fine.
Be vigilant out there, folks, and please, share this article with your friends to alert them to the scam of virtual kidnapping.