Few situations can cause the intense fear and desperation felt by the parents of abducted children. As recent reports reveal, a growing number of scammers are intentionally subjecting their victims to that extreme stress in the pursuit of a quick buck.
As the Daily Mail reported, federal authorities are warning parents of the threat posed by “virtual kidnappers,” described as fraudsters who convince parents to pay a ransom despite never actually taking any children.
Some of the alleged victims of the scam have spoken to ABC in an effort to spread awareness.
— Good Morning America (@GMA) January 17, 2018
There have been several reported cases of similar scams being perpetrated against parents across the U.S.
One mother said the supposed kidnappers remained on the phone with her as she scrambled to withdraw and send the $9,000 ransom they demanded.
Authorities warn this particular scam is not new, but has been adapted and made more effective through social media.
Evy Poumpouras, a security expert, offered a few tips for parents to minimize the risk of being targeted through the information they share on social media sites.
“You have to be very very thoughtful about what you put out there when you post your kids,” she said. “What are you sharing? Are you sharing their names, where they go to school, whether they like sports?”
Scammers typically compile these details to weave a story distraught parents often find credible. One mother in California told ABC that the con artists who contacted her claimed to be involved in the Mexican cartel.
She shared some of the profanity-laced demands recorded from a phone call by the self-described kidnappers.
You try and f— with me? I won’t f— around,” one caller said. “I’ll kill your son.”
An FBI statement last year indicated the hoaxes are believed to be primarily based in Mexico, in some cases by prisoners, and states along the southern U.S. border.
[Featured image: ABC/video screenshot]