In November of 2022, the Frederick Police Department investigated two occurrences related to a virtual kidnapping ransom scam. During these investigations, it was found the suspect(s) called the victims advising a family member was being held captive, demanding a ransom be paid for their release. In both cases, the suspects ordered the victims to stay on the phone until the ransom was electronically wired to a location in Mexico.
According to an article from the National Institutes of Health, to avoid becoming a victim of this extortion scheme, look for the following possible indicators:
- Incoming calls come from an outside area code, sometimes from Puerto Rico with area codes (787), (939), and (856).
- Spoof calls appearing from the phone number of the “kidnapped” victim but the caller won’t let you speak to the victim or hear their voice
- Callers go to great lengths to keep you on the phone.
- Callers prevent you from calling or locating the "kidnapped" victim.
- Ransom money is only accepted via wire transfer service.
Furthermore, if you receive a phone call from someone who demands payment of a ransom for a kidnapped victim, the following should be considered:
- Try to slow the situation down. Request to speak to the victim directly. Ask, "How do I know my loved one is okay?"
- If the callers don't let you speak to the victim, ask them to describe the victim or describe the vehicle the victim drives, if applicable.
- Listen carefully to the voice of the kidnapped victim if he/she speaks.
- Attempt to call, text, or contact the alleged victim via social media. Request that the victim call back from his or her cell phone.
- While staying on the line with the alleged kidnappers, try to call the alleged kidnap victim from another phone.
- To buy time, repeat the caller's request and tell them you are writing. down the demand, or tell the caller you need additional time to meet their demands.
- Don't directly challenge or argue with the caller. Keep your voice low and steady.
- Request the alleged kidnapper allow the victim to call you back from his/her cell phone.
- At the earliest opportunity, notify your local police department.
To help prevent this scam, check privacy settings on social media accounts and revisit the information you publicize on those accounts. The more information available to the public, the more information scammers can use to convince you into believing a scam is real.
If you have questions about this information or need to report a potential scam happening to you in Frederick City, please contact the Frederick Police Department at 301-600-2100.