YORK CO., Va. (WWBT) - Imagine that you get a call from a complete stranger saying that they’ve kidnapped your loved one, and will hurt them unless you wire over thousands of your hard-earned money.
This is all part of new crime tactic on the rise called virtual kidnapping where scammers call you saying that they are holding your loved one for ransom.
Though this is a variation of a phone scam, it’s a problem Danny Diggs with the York County Sheriff’s Office has already had to deal with twice this month.
“It’s not like it happens in the movies," he said. "Very few people are ever kidnapped for ransom and typically when it is, it’s somebody who’s a millionaire. They want some real money.”
Scammers target the victims by finding their information online, and if they target you they usually put somebody on the line who is hysterical, meaning you really can’t tell if it’s your family member or not.
“They give you information to stay on the line ... don’t call the police, go somewhere, typically a Western Union and immediately wire us some money and say ‘If you don’t, we’re going to kill your loved one,'” said Diggs.
He says the scammers can target anyone.
“The instance we had on August 5th, the scammers were real close. The victim was at the counter of the Western Union outlet, but a deputy was there and was able to talk to the wife while the husband was on the phone,” said Diggs. “We were able to make contact with the daughter and verify she was safe, so the transaction never took place.”
The sheriff’s office says the best thing you can do is to to hang up the phone if it’s a caller you don’t recognize, but if you do pick up, they urge that you don’t call out your loved one’s name, ask questions only the alleged kidnap victim would know, attempt to contact your loved one and never agree to pay a ransom via wire or in person.
“These people are professionals. What they do, they take advantage of people. They prey on their emotions,” said Diggs.
If you suspect a real kidnapping is taking place or you believe a ransom demand is a scheme, contact your local law enforcement immediately.
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