By Detective Sergeant Garrett Cassio
The South Plainfield Police Department is alerting residents about a rising telephone scam called “virtual kidnappings.”
It starts with a frantic phone call from an unfamiliar voice, 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. The kidnappers use social media to learn more about their victims and claim they’re holding their cell phone, saying if you try to contact your loved one, you’re jeopardizing their life.
Law enforcement officials believe the masterminds behind the scam are Hispanic males who speak to victims with a Spanish accent. Also that the money is wired to a third party in Puerto Rico, where the incoming calls’ area codes are usually from.
To tell whether a kidnapping scam is fake, when scammers call the victims, they often direct them to transfer money using a wire transfer service like a Western Union. Usual ransom requests are between $500 - $2000. Asking then 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.
When scammers call the victim, they most likely have no knowledge of their loved ones specifically. 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. DO NOT share any information about you or your family member.
If you happen to get one of these calls, slow down the conversation and ask for more time, call or text the victim from another phone if possible, and contact the police.
For anyone who has any similar incidents or has any questions, please contact the South Plainfield Police Department at (908) 755-0700 or email Detective Sergeant Garrett Cassio at firstname.lastname@example.org.