Every day, scammers use technology to prey on unwitting victims. Thousands of dollars are wasted every year. Whether it’s a Nigerian prince or a surprise sweepstakes win, we all have a good idea when someone is trying to hoodwink us. However, a new scam has a disturbing twist that might make some think twice.
Recently, the FBI announced a new scam making its way through the United States. Criminals are cold calling thousands of houses and demanding ransom money. Here’s the catch: they play a tape of screaming women in the background.
They tell the victim a family member is being held hostage. Usually, the person receiving the call gets distressed. Then, they will say someone’s name. The would-be kidnappers confirm it’s them and demand ransom money.
Originally, the calls came from Mexican prisons. Usually, the targets were Spanish-speaking households. Lately, more calls have happened amongst English speaking households.
From Los Angeles Special Agent Erik Arbuthnot:
In 2015, the calls started coming in English. Something else happened: The criminals were no longer targeting specific individuals, such as doctors or just Spanish speakers.
Now they were choosing various cities and cold-calling hundreds of numbers until innocent people fell for the scheme.
For the most part, people are not buying the phone calls. Sometimes, the family member is sitting right next to the recipient of the phone call. Unfortunately, for every non-believer, there is someone falling for it. And they’re forking over thousands of dollars to save someone.
This fraud only worked when people picked up the phone, they had a daughter, and she was not home. But if you are making hundreds of calls, the crime will eventually work.
So, if someone calls your house saying they have your daughter, don’t believe them. And alert the authorities.
Better yet, don’t answer phone numbers if you don’t recognize them at all.