‘Virtual kidnappings’ grab the attention of the FBI

FBI says virtual kidnapping is happening all over the country

A "virtual kidnapping" begins with a scary phone call (KOIN graphic)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — ” How much money can you pay right now by yourselves so we can let your brother go?”

It starts with a frantic phone call from an unfamiliar voice telling you someone you love has been kidnapped and is in danger. But the FBI is re-sounding the alarm about what they call “virtual kidnapping.”

The “kidnappers” use social media to help weave their tale of untruth hoping that — in the end — you’ll quickly pay up to get your loved one back.

These calls have the FBI working overtime to make potential victims aware of this scam.

“We do see victims all over Oregon and all over the country on a daily basis,” said Beth Anne Steele with the Portland office of the FBI. “99.9% of the time if you receive that call, that text, that email saying a loved one has been kidnapped, it most likely is not true.”

A Google search of “virtual kidnapping” shows it happens all over the country, October 2, 2017 (KOIN)

The scammers tap social media to research their potential victims, learn where they live, where they go and who their friends are. They use that information to carefully craft their kidnapping con game.

Beth Anne Steele with the Portland office of the FBI, October 2, 2017 (KOIN)

Though no one had really been kidnapped, the scammers often have someone screaming or crying in the background while they threaten to hurt them unless a ransom is paid immediately. Sometimes they claim to be members of a drug cartel and order their targets to wire money immediately.

It recently happened to a Beaverton mom — but she figured it out, confirmed her daughter was safe and hung up.

But others continue to fall victim and wire thousands of dollars to that voice on the other end.

“Know what the scams are,” Steele said. “Be prepared to react to them and then don’t fall for them. Take a minute and think about it: Is this really true?”

Steele said if you get one of those calls or texts, ask to speak to the hostage and/or try to contact your loved one by another method..

Most of all, know that there’s a really, really, really good chance this is a scam.