A Scam that Terrorizes Victims Out of Their Money, And Steps You Can Take to Avoid It!

Virtual Kidnapping

Imagine sitting at a conference, 600 miles away from home when your phone rings.  It’s a strange number, but you figure it may be one of your new contacts at the event, so you answer.  What you hear is your child, panicking and yelling into the phone.  This happened to my friend Tina last weekend.

“Calm down darling, just tell me what is happ-,” she began, when she was interrupted by an accented man, who shouted on the line that if she wanted her daughter to stay alive, she would stay on the phone with him and wire all of her money to him. Tina had no idea that her daughter was safe at home, watching the Olympics unaware that any of this was going on.

Tina spent the next hour listening to this man threaten to kill her daughter, and telling her where to go near her hotel to wire the money.  Tina had fallen victim to a terrorist scam, which happened to Tracy Holczer and so many others as well, according to The Guardian.

SO WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Be aware! Tell your friends. Share this post. The more aware we are of scams like this, the better!

The FBI (FBI.GOV) says to look for these possible indicators:

  • Incoming calls made from an outside area code
  • Multiple successive phone calls
  • Calls do not come from the kidnapped victim’s phone
  • 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

 

We advise families to have a specific emergency pass code.  I like to use a question and answer system.

  1. It’s best to use an odd question with an odd answer. For example, “What does a dinosaur wear?”  “FUZZY PINK EARRINGS!”
  2. You can keep a visual at home to remind your kids of this, and every time you practice with them, stick fuzzy pink earrings on the dinosaur. Something silly. Something memorable.  Something secret.
  3. Add significance to it as your child gets older.  It’s fun and silly when they are preschoolers, important in elementary school, serious once they hit the teen years.  If they see that question, they know they need to contact you right away.

 

If YOU get the call: More Tips from the FBI (source FBI.GOV):

If you receive a phone call from someone who demands payment of a ransom for a kidnapped victim, the following should be considered:

  • Stay calm
  • Slow the situation down
  • Avoid sharing information about you or your family during the call
  • Listen carefully to the voice of the kidnapped victim
  • Attempt to call or determine the location of the “kidnapped” victim
  • Request to speak to the victim
  • Ask questions only the victim would know
  • Request the kidnapped victim call back from his/her cell phone

The trauma to victims of this scam is extreme in a unique way.  Tina lived through the experience of having her daughter kidnapped and on the edge of being murdered, but it didn’t physically happen.

Thankfully she was calm and lost only $8 in ATM Fees, but the cost to her isn’t in dollars.  It’s fear when the phone rings.  It’s trying not to smother her daughter now that they are home safe together.  This disconnect is going to take a long emotional road full of PTSD and counselling.

The only way to combat a scam like this is to raise awareness.

Be safe. Be Strong. Be EMPOWERED!

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