It all starts with a phone call from a recognizable number. It's a phone call from someone you know. Imagine you answer the phone, and it's not the person you expect. Instead, it's a man telling you he's kidnapped that person (whether it's your kid, your best friend, a co-worker - how scary?!). The "kidnapper" then asks you to send the ransom money in order to save the victim. It is a SCAM, but there's so much about it that's believable, you may just fall for it!

According to a newspaper in Indiana, this happened to a few people there. The FBI is calling this "virtual kidnapping" next level. The high-pressure call has an instant impact. The ability to spoof phone numbers is what makes it so instantly scary.

How to spot virtual kidnapping:

  • Try to get off the phone or use another means of contacting the family member who purportedly has been kidnapped.
  • Ask for “proof of life” and “proof of possession” and request a current photograph of the person.

Contact the FBI or local law enforcement immediately to report the attempted virtual kidnapping and provide as much information as you can, including the phone number if you have it. Also, file a report with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.

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