Imagine receiving a phone call from a stranger, claiming they kidnapped a family member or spouse. The kidnappers then demand a ransom in exchange for your loved one's release and tell you to wire the money for the ransom payment. They claim the kidnapping victim is in need of medical attention and a voice in the background screams for help. Not only can this scenario strike fear into anyone's heart, but also their wallets. The FBI is alerting consumers about the increase in kidnapping scams in New York City that could result in people losing thousands of dollars to schemers, according to a statement.
The FBI and New York City Police Department warn that scammers are targeting people in the city by cold calling victims. Law enforcement officials believe the masterminds behind the scam are Hispanic males who speak to consumers with a Spanish accent. The FBI also noted money is wired to a third party in Puerto Rico, where the incoming calls' area codes are usually from.
How to Tell a Kidnapping Scam is Fake
When scammers call victims, they often direct them to transfer money using a wire transfer service like Western Union. The perpetrators of this scam typically asked for ransom payments between $600 and $1,900. Asking for a wire transfer is often a red flag as scammers prefer wire transfers because they are hard to trace.
In addition, scammers do not call from the kidnapping victim's phone and they often want victims to stay on the line until the wire transfer is complete.
Avoid Being a Victim
Last year, the FBI reported a similar rash of kidnapping scams in San Antonio and advised consumers to remain calm if they receive a phone call from a potential scammer, according to a statement.
When scammers call the victim, they most likely have no knowledge of their loved ones and know what their spouse or family member's voices sound like. If you hear a voice on the other end of the line, try to determine if it is actually familiar.
Rather than rush to send the requested money, try to find the victim's whereabouts first and request to speak to the victim.
Finally, do not share any information about you or your family member. If consumers receive similar calls, they should call their nearest FBI office.