Police Warns Parents On Virtual Kidnapping Scam; FBI Shares Tips To Foil Attempts
The police are raising the alarm on a virtual kidnapping scam that is spreading in Virginia, Maryland and Washington. At least three families have become the target and the FBI is also on alert. The agency has shared some tips to parents to ensure that they don't fall victims.
WJLA reports that mom, Susan Wilder, received a call at 9:30 a.m. on May 4 on her cellphone. It was of her "crying" 17-year-old daughter Megan. She was supposed to be in school, but before Susan could ask her further, a man immediately took the phone away and demanded money in exchange for Meg.
Wilder was quick to think about dialing 911 on another phone, so that it will hear her conversation with the kidnapper. The man at the other end of the line requested no meet-ups, but still demanded money. With cellphone still in hand, she rushed out to the ATM machine at a grocery store.
Meanwhile, with 911's help, authorities immediately confirmed if Meg was not in school. When they found out she was in her class, they had to tell Susan Wilder at the grocery store that she had been scammed. The Wilders are okay, but they are still reeling from what happened.
NBC Washington reports that similar incidents of the virtual kidnapping scam have happened at the George Mason University, Prince William County, Virginia and Archdiocese of Washington. In most cases, the kidnappings do not actually take place, but the scammers use this to extort money from their victims.
The FBI advise parents to immediately report any incidents to the authorities even if the kidnapping attempts are proven to be false. The agency also wants parents to note the telltale signs that of the virtual kidnapping scam, per Fairfax County Government:
- The "kidnapper" will normally keep the victim engaged on the phone.
- The scammers don't usually make the calls using their kidnapped victim's phone
- The scammers will also have some knowledge of personal information about the victims to keep with the pretense.
- They will instruct the victims to wire the money.
Susan Wilder told WUSA9 that her call with the kidnappers took almost 30 minutes, as they kept her on the phone. Had she not alerted 911, she might have wired the money already. Police actually took the phone from Susan Wilder when they saw her at the grocery store, but the man at the other end already hang up. The number used was untraceable. Watch the video for more info about the scam: