Federal investigators are warning about an increase in fake kidnapping calls. The scammers call, say they have your loved one and demand money to keep them safe. In reality, your loved ones are fine - the scammer is just trying to get your money. Victims have lost thousands of dollars because of it. It's a frightening scheme that plays on your emotions.
In a new report, the FBI says the scam has evolved and that residents across the United States could be potential victims. The scammers cold-call hundreds of phone numbers. The crooks sometimes use a recording of a woman's screaming voice, which makes the victim think their loved one is in danger. Out of instinct, you might yell out your daughter's name. Unfortunately, that gives the scammer more details about your family to make their story sound more believable.
The FBI reports that many of the phone calls originate from Mexican prisons. The FBI says prisoners use smuggled cellphones to randomly call people in the United States. Scammers can mask their phone numbers to make it look like they have a local number, when really they aren't from the area. The scammers ask the victim to wire money to them. Then the prisoners have their friends or family pick up the funds at money transfer locations.
This is similar to another scam we've warned you about that's called the "Grandparent Scam." That's where the caller claims to be your grandchild and asks for money to get out of trouble. I talked with one Colorado Springs man who got a call from a scammer claiming to be his grandson. The caller said he was in a car accident and needed to borrow money.
"This guy sounded just like my grandson," the victim told me. So he bought thousands of dollars in gift cards and read the card numbers over the phone to the scammer. "My daughter came in afterwards and said, 'You just got burned, Dad. That was a scam.'" He lost about $4,000.
Keep in mind, the scammers want you to react right away. It's our first instinct to help out when our loved ones are in distress. But in this case, you should take some time to confirm whether the call is legitimate. Also, ask the caller questions only you and your family would know the answers to. You can even come up with a code word so that you know when you're talking to your loved ones.
If you are wondering if you're dealing with a scam, you can reach out to our 11 Call for Action team. You can call our volunteers at 719-457-8211. You may want to write that number down and post it on your loved one's refrigerator so they can call us whenever they need to. Also, if you want to help people, we are always looking for more volunteers. Reach out to us if you're interested in joining our Call for Action team.