FBI warns of recent virtual kidnapping scams

Pictured: FBI field office in Albuquerque, New Mexico.(Photo: fbi.gov)

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Cases on the rise in New Mexico

News Release

Albuquerque FBI Division - Public Affairs Office

The FBI has become aware of recent cases in New Mexico of a phone scam known as virtual kidnapping, in which a victim is told his or her family member has been kidnapped and a ransom is demanded.

Unlike traditional abductions, virtual kidnappers have not actually kidnapped anyone. Instead, through deceptions and threats, they coerce victims to pay a quick ransom before the scheme falls apart.

If you suspect a real kidnapping is taking place or you believe a ransom demand is a scheme, immediately contact the Albuquerque FBI Division at (505) 889-1300 or local law enforcement.

The following should be considered if you receive a call, which usually originates in Mexico: 

  • Attempt to contact the alleged victim via phone, text, or social media, and request that they call back from their cell phone.
  • Contact family members to determine if they have been called as well.
  • If you engage the caller, do not disclose your loved one’s name or provide any identifying information.
  • Try to slow the situation down. The success of any type of virtual kidnapping scheme depends on speed and fear. Criminals know they only have a short time to exact a ransom before the victims unravel the scam or authorities become involved.
  • Request 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 they speak. Often it is someone posing as the kidnap victim.
  • To buy time, repeat the caller’s request and tell them you are writing down the demand, or tell the caller you need more time.
  • Do not agree to meet the caller in person. Such a meeting can be dangerous.

Tips to the FBI can also be submitted online at tips.fbi.gov. All tipsters may remain anonymous.

For more information about this scam: https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/virtual-kidnapping

Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI - seal
(Image: fbi.gov)
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