The Federal Bureau of Investigation issued a warning this month on an old, but newly widespread con called “virtual kidnapping” is preying on victims who fall for the common tactics also used by fraudulent actors.
》Don’t give the “mark” (the targeted victim) time to think or talk to anyone, get them to withdraw cash and wire it somewhere untraceable, and convince them any deviation from your instructions will cost them.
The ploy starts with cold calling. When a potential victim answers, the actors use the voice of a small child or girl calling for help saying they’ve been kidnapped. A man then tells them not to hang up because they’ve got their child held hostage but will release them if they do “X”. X could be an order to go to the grocery store and buy 10 $500 Visa gift cards, then reading off the activation numbers. Whatever the X, the idea is to create urgency and leave people little time to think. They often keep people on the phone the whole time. Be aware of that and similar phone-based frauds.
The FBI provided the following avoidance tips:
》Never post news of upcoming travel dates and locations online
》Discuss virtual kidnapping with family members prior to any travel
》Have a “password” that family members can ask for in an emergency to confirm that a loved one is really in trouble
》Be wary of providing financial information to strangers over the phone
We’d also add the following tips,
》If there is a chance the claim of kidnapping is real, verify first then contact the police. Many legitimate ransom attempts really do include the whole “don’t call the police” demand. Always call the police. They’ll get the FBI and proper authorities involved that can aid without detection.
》Hang-up and call the person they claim is the hostage and make sure they’re ok. You can make an excuse, “my phone is dying, let me charge,” then hang-up and verify.
》Don’t confirm or say anything that would give up PII or lead them down a path to make the story more believable. They often use the same tactics a psychic would, they use bits of information to make it seem like they know more than they do, i.e. Scammer: “We’ve got her, we’re going to kill her.” Victim: You’ve got Mary!?” Now they know a name of someone that means a lot to you.
This article was originally written by the Grayman Briefing. Stay in the know, sign up for Intel and Situational Awareness alerts pushed to your phone on emerging threats and preparedness warnings. Click HERE to subscribe to the Grayman Briefing.