How Do I Spot “Virtual Kidnapping” Scammers?

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Scammers are hitting closer to home.

Some frauds are perpetrated by friends, relatives, or caretakers.

Some simply use those close to you.

There is a frightening new fraud being perpetrated by scammers.

They leverage your loved ones for money.


According to a recent AARP article titled “Virtual Kidnapping’ Terrorizes People Across the U.S.,” the scammers pretend to hold your child, grandchild, or other loved one hostage for ransom.

Scammers can stage virtual kidnappings.
Scammers can spoof caller ID.

How do they do this?

First, they spoof the phone number on the caller ID.

When the call comes through, it looks as if it is coming from a loved one.

Then the scammers demand money in exchange for the life of your loved one.

While you hear muffled screams and cries in the background, the scammers demand payments through peer-to-peer fund transfers such as Venmo or Zella.

If this happens to you, then most likely you have been target by a “virtual kidnapping” scam.

What can you do in this situation?

According to the FBI, there are several steps you should take.

What are they?

Remain calm.

In a state of panic, you may reveal personal information.

This information could then be used against you by scammers.

They scammers want you to rush, so slow down the conversation.

Insist on speaking with your loved one.

The caller may hesitate.

Tell them you can only know if the loved one is okay by talking to her yourself.

You want proof of life.

Request that the victim call you back on her phone.

If the “victim” is placed on the phone, ask personal questions.

Be sure any answers could not be found on social media.

What can you do if the caller does not allow you to speak to the victim?


Ask the caller questions like what kind of car the victim drives.

While the caller is on the phone, try reaching out to your loved one through social media or through texting from another phone.

The scammer may try to rush you.

Speak low, slow, and steady.

Explain that you need to find pen and paper to take down the information given.

Most importantly do not argue with the caller.

In most instances, the alleged victim is safe and unaware of this “kidnapping.”

According to the FBI, these caller ID scams are not knew, but they are on the rise.

New technology makes it easier for scammers to accomplish.

What happens if you fall victim to these “virtual kidnapping” scammers?

Notify the police immediately and provide a detailed report.

Request a copy of this report.

Also, inform your bank, credit card company, mobile payment app, or whatever was used to send the payment.

In some instances, you may be able to cancel a payment or get your money back.

The police report can give your claim credibility.

Still, preventative measures are far more effective than damage control.

Be cautious and vigilant to prevent falling victim to scammers.

References: AARP. (accessed December 5, 2019) “Virtual Kidnapping’ Terrorizes People Across the U.S.” 

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