New Virtual Kidnapping Scam Pops Up in Indiana
Imagine your phone ringing. You look to see who's calling and it shows one of your children, your significant other, or another loved one on the caller ID. You answer it expecting to hear their voice on the other end, only you don't. Instead you hear a voice claiming to have kidnapped them, and insisting you pay a ransom if you ever want to see them alive again. Just the thought of it makes my heart pound a bit faster, and while it may sound like the plot of a Liam Neeson movie, it's very real, and it's made its way to Indiana.
According to NBC affiliate, WTHR-TV in Indianapolis, this is the exact scenario that played out for a Noblesville, Indiana family not once, but twice, and within minutes of each other.
Mark Walker received a call from who he thought was his daughter based on the name that popped up on his phone screen. When he answered, he says a man on the other end claimed to be holding his daughter captive and would kill her if he didn't pay up. He also made the same threat if Walker attempted to call the police. Minutes later, his son received a similar call, the only difference being it was his dad's name that popped up on the screen.
Both Walker and his son told WTHR the callers were intensely yelling throughout the call to give the perception that it was real. In Walker's case, the caller's demand was that he wire the money through a MoneyGram from Walmart. The article did not mention the demand his son was given.
WTHR spoke with a member of the FBI who said this type of scam has actually been around since 2017. The scammers are able to do this acquiring contact lists that have been stolen and posted online. They also "troll the internet to find personal contact information about you and your family through social media and online search tools."
Honestly, I have no idea how I'd react if I received one of these calls. If I were to make a guess, crippling fear would be my first reaction which is the whole point. However, according to the FBI the main thing to do is remain as calm as possible. They also offer the following tips on what to do if you receive one of these calls:
- In most cases, the best course of action is to hang up the phone.
- If you do engage the caller, don’t call out your loved one’s name.
- Try to slow the situation down. Request to speak to your family member directly. Ask, "How do I know my loved one is okay?”
- Ask questions only the alleged kidnap victim would know, such as the name of a pet.
- Avoid sharing information about yourself or your family.
- Listen carefully to the voice of the alleged victim if they speak.
- Attempt to contact the alleged victim via phone, text, or social media, and request that they call back from their cell phone.
- To buy time, repeat the caller’s request and tell them you are writing down the demand, or tell the caller you need time to get things moving.
- Don’t agree to pay a ransom, by wire or in person. Delivering money in person can be dangerous.
I reached out to Sergeant Jason Cullum of the Evansville Police Department to see if there have been any reports of a virtual kidnapping in Evansville. He had not responded at the time of this post.
If you believe the threat is real and a loved one has been taken, contact your local law enforcement immediately using another phone. Also, contact them if you receive one of these scam calls.