There are instances in which you may believe your child or family member has been kidnapped, only for it to turn out they haven’t been kidnapped at all. Instead, you are made to believe that your child has been kidnapped or that they are in danger so the ‘kidnapper’ can get paid a ransom immediately. Be careful, because virtual kidnapping does exist.
How virtual kidnapping works
Kidnappers carry out virtual kidnappings in a variety of ways. The first thing they’ll often do is hack into the victim’s email address or other online accounts. Then, they follow their prey either physically and in person, or through social media. Next, the kidnapper will wait until the victim turns off their phone or is in a location where they’re less reachable (such as a concert or on a flight).
Next, making it appear as though it’s coming from the victim’s phone, an email is sent to a family member claiming that their child has been kidnapped and a ransom needs to be paid in order to get them released. The virtual kidnappers then wait, hoping a transaction or exchange of money will take place. The kidnappers don’t typically demand a large sum of money, but instead prefer to get payment as soon as possible, while insisting that the person they’re demanding ransom from stay on the phone with them. This is done out of fear that if a connection is established with the child, then the scam will be exposed.
How to tell if a kidnapping is fake
There are a few ways to tell if a kidnapping is fake. In a real kidnapping, callers will not go to great lengths to keep you on the phone and insist you remain on the line. In a virtual kidnapping, the person will want to keep you on the line so you can’t try to contact anyone and end up exposing the scam. A kidnapping may also be fake if the caller tries to actively prevent you from contacting the ‘kidnapped’ victim. Other signs a kidnapping may be fake are:
- Multiple successive phone calls
- Any incoming calls made from an outside area code
- Demands that ransom money be paid via wire transfer instead of in person
- Ransom price demands may drop quickly
Avoiding virtual kidnapping
To avoid becoming a victim of a virtual kidnapping there are multiple points to keep in mind. If you get a call, ask to speak to the victim and also ask the caller to describe the victim. If the caller claims they have the victim’s phone, don’t try to call, but instead get someone else to text the phone.
You should also be careful not to overshare personal information on social media, such as where you work or what kind of car you drive. Scammers/virtual kidnappers are always trolling for information that will make their scam more believable. Take the necessary steps to make sure you don’t fall into this trap.