Criminals in Mexico Are Targeting American Families with a Phone Call
Victoria Ritter - Newsweek
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November 7, 2017

‘Virtual kidnappings’ grab the attention of the FBI (KOIN 6)

Virtual kidnapping scammers who previously extorted Hispanic foreigners into paying money in exchange for the release of a friend or relative who was never held captive have widened their sights to include random victims, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which launched a campaign in October to investigate the underreported crime happening since at least 2013.

Unlike actual abductions, virtual kidnappers - usually in Mexico - call an individual, threaten them and trick them into quickly wiring money to the scammer while still on the phone before the scheme falls apart. The sums are usually small, sometimes a few hundred or up to $2,000, because people likely have the cash on hand and there are legal restrictions for wiring larger amounts across the border, cyber-security experts and FBI representatives said.

The scam has widened to randomly-dialed phone numbers because it works, FBI officials and cyber-security expert Joseph Steinberg said. “When scams are successful, criminals continue to do them more and more and expand their reach,” Steinberg told Newsweek.

Fraudsters typically troll social media for victims to see when relatives are apart either because of work or travel and then they strike, Steinberg said. The unsuspecting victim who answers the phone sometimes hears a voice crying for help to make the scam seem real. The victim sometimes unwittingly shouts out their loved ones name during random calls, giving the scammer more leverage. If the victim can’t quickly reach the friend or relative they believe is kidnapped, they’ll usually pay up, according to the FBI.

Undocumented immigrants were the main target because the likelihood of reporting the crime was low for fear of deportation, Steinberg said. That's even more true under the Trump administration, which has threatened to deport undocumented immigrants in droves, Steinberg said.

Read the rest at Gears of Biz

Related: ‘We Have Your Daughter’: A Virtual Kidnapping and a Mother’s Five Hours of Hell (The Washington Post)

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