The Livermore Police Department would like to share some information with you regarding a scam that has been going around both locally and nationally. We have recently received reports involving a scam where someone will call a victim’s phone claiming to have a family member or family members as a hostage. A simple Google search of “Virtual Kidnapping” will show you how often this scam is being used.
These scammers will generally call you and demand ransom in exchange for your loved one’s release and tell you to wire the money for the ransom payment. When scammers call victims, direct the person to purchase green dot gift cards or direct them to transfer money via a wire transfer service. According to the FBI, scammers ask for wire transfers because the wire transfers are extremely difficult to trace. In addition, scammers will insist that the victims stay on the line until the wire transfer is complete.
Understandably so, this type of scam will strike fear into anyone’s heart. Therefore, we want to share with you some things you need to know to protect yourself from potentially falling victim.
– These scammers will often have pre-recorded messages of individuals yelling or screaming in the background as they talk on the phone.
– The scammers will tell you to withdraw funds from your account and to either purchase gift cards, green dot pre-paid cards, or complete a wire transfer.
– Most of these scammers will tell you to stay on the phone and not call the police or something will happen to your family member(s).
– Scammers will ask you to honk your horn while you are in your vehicle so they can hear you are still in the car.
– When these scammers call, the numbers will usually come up as being from out of the country or foreign.
– Recently, these scammers have been able to spoof a phone number you may recognize.
– These virtual scammers are becoming more sophisticated. They have been using technology and sophisticated methods to dupe people into thinking that their loved ones have been kidnapped.
Things to consider:
– Know the vast majority of these are completely fake.
– Call your family members to make sure they are ok and confirm they are not in distress.
– You may not want to withdraw any money or send anyone money of any kind (including gift cards) without determining the validity of the call.
– Notifying your local police department immediately and report the incident to the FBI.
The police department wanted to share with the community information about this scam and encourage people to gain additional information by conducting a Google search of “Virtual Kidnapping” and learning about all the tips provided by the FBI to protect yourself.