The FBI has become aware of recent cases in New Mexico of a phone scam known as virtual kidnapping in which a victim is told his or her family member has been kidnapped and a ransom is demanded.
Unlike traditional abductions, virtual kidnappers have not actually kidnapped anyone. Instead, through deceptions and threats, they coerce victims to pay a quick ransom before the scheme falls apart.
If you suspect a real kidnapping is taking place or you believe a ransom demand is a scheme, immediately contact the Albuquerque FBI Division at (505) 889-1300 or local law enforcement.
The following should be considered if you receive a call, which usually originates in Mexico:
Attempt to contact the alleged victim via phone, text, or social media, and request that they call back from their cell phone.
Contact family members to determine if they have been called as well.
If you engage the caller, do not disclose your loved one’s name or provide any identifying information.
Try to slow the situation down. The success of any type of virtual kidnapping scheme depends on speed and fear. Criminals know they only have a short time to exact a ransom before the victims unravel the scam or authorities become involved.
Request to speak to your family member directly. Ask: “How do I know my loved one is OK?”
Ask questions only the alleged kidnap victim would know, such as the name of a pet. Avoid sharing information about yourself or your family.
Listen carefully to the voice of the alleged victim if they speak. Often it is someone posing as the kidnap victim.
To buy time, repeat the caller’s request and tell them you are writing down the demand, or tell the caller you need more time.
Do not agree to meet the caller in person. Such a meeting can be dangerous.
Tips to the FBI can also be submitted online at tips.fbi.gov. All tipsters may remain anonymous.