Officials warn of ‘virtual kidnapping’ scheme

If your children are traveling, beware. A new scheme, referred to as “viral kidnapping,” is targeting parents.

The Federal Bureau of Investigators says criminals are calling people, claiming they’ve abducted their loved ones, and demanding ransom money.

One woman shared her story, anonymously, saying she received a call that her brother has been kidnapped. She said the suspects demanded money.

“He said ‘lady, this is the deal. I have your brother.’ He told me that he hit him over the head and he was bleeding out,” she explained.

The apparent kidnapper then demanded thousands of dollars through a wire transfer. The woman said she never sent the money, because minutes after hanging up with the criminal, she heard from her brother – who was unharmed.

FBI kidnapping expert Eric Arbuthnot said several organizations are using these schemes to make money.

“Thousands of dollars in ransom. And you’re talking about a criminal organization that is capable of doing more than one kidnapping at a time,” he explained.

Officials said the perpetrators use social media to research their potential victims, paying close attention to where they live, places they commonly visit, and friends they connect with – including where your children may attend college.

The FBI says criminal prosecution of these suspects is unlikely because the cell numbers they call from are often untraceable.

If you get a call like this, officials say you should hang up and contact police.

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