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Police Warn Public About 'Virtual Kidnapping'

BROWNSVILLE, Texas - Recently, a Brownsville Family fell prey to a common phone scam referred to as "virtual kidnapping". Today it seems everyone is sharing their personal lives on social media and becoming targets of this sophisticated phone scam.

In the scam reported to the Brownsville Police Department, the suspect’s audio recorded the family member while extorting money from them by claiming they had a family member in their custody. The suspects used the voice recording to trick the second family member into believing the first family member was now be held captive. Now that family is out of a significant amount of money. Whether it is a virtual kidnapping scam, or the "relative" claiming they need bail money, be very careful, hang up and call the alleged family to make sure they're okay and never wire money to anyone you don't know. While you are away from home, you have no idea you are being "virtually kidnapped".

To avoid becoming a victim the FBI says people should be aware of the following:

  • Callers go to great lengths to keep you on the phone, insisting you remain on the line.
  • Calls do not come from the supposed victim’s phone.
  • Callers try to prevent you from contacting the “kidnapped” victim.
  • Calls include demands for ransom money to be paid via wire transfer to Mexico; ransom amount demands may drop quickly.

If you receive a call from someone demanding a ransom for an alleged kidnap victim, the FBI says, consider the following:

  • In most cases, the best course of action is to hang up the phone.
  • If you do engage the caller, don’t call out your loved one’s name.
  • Try to slow the situation down. Ask 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 the person speaks.
  • Attempt to contact the alleged victim via phone, text, or social media, and ask the person to call back from their cell phone.
  • To buy time, repeat the caller’s request and tell the person you are writing down the demand, or tell the caller you need time to get things moving.
  • Don’t agree to pay a ransom, by wire or in person. Delivering money in person can be dangerous.

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