Since April, our Fairfax County Police Department and law enforcement officials from around the region have responded to several reports of a trending abduction scam for money (with three attempts in Fairfax).
This scam utilizes fear as a catalyst.
Here’s how it works:
- A parent gets a phone call during a school day and they hear a child crying or a child stating they have been kidnapped.
- Then, a stranger gets on the phone and tells the parent their child has been abducted and demands ransom for the child’s return.
- The scammer tells the victim to wire the money to a specific location.
Instinctively, many parents will do whatever it takes to get their children home to safety. Parents may not think about calling their child’s school to verify they are safe and where they’re supposed to be until it’s too late and realize they have just been swindled.
These scammers will try to keep you on the phone so you cannot call police or anyone else. They keep your mind distracted and frazzled for fear of your child’s safety. Police encourage any parent who receives a ransom call about their child being abducted to immediately call your child’s school (or the location where they are supposed to be) to verify their safety.
For criminals, the success of any type of virtual kidnapping depends on speed and fear. They know they only have a short time to exact a ransom payment before the victims and their families unravel the scam or authorities become involved. To avoid becoming a victim, the FBI advises to look for these possible indicators:
- Callers go to great lengths to keep you on the phone, insisting you remain on the line.
- Calls do not come from the victim’s phone.
- Callers try to prevent you from contacting the “kidnapped” victim.
- Multiple successive phone calls.
- Incoming calls made from an outside area code.
- Demands for ransom money to be paid via wire transfer, not in person; ransom demands may drop quickly.
Financial scams are prevalent in today’s technological and connected society. Some other recent scams include the “IRS” demanding money or local courts claiming you missed jury duty, so you must pay a “fine.” Scammers target unsuspecting victims through phone calls, e-mails and face-to-face. They prey upon your emotions from excitement and joy to fear and intimidation and the types and styles of ruses are countless. The common thread is that all scammers hope to catch you off-guard and keep you off-balance so you act without thinking and don’t realize what’s happened until your money is already gone.