‘Virtual kidnapping scam’ warning issued after two cases in York County

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YORK COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Authorities are warning locals Tuesday of a reported “virtual kidnapping scam” in York County where victims are told their loved ones have been abducted and that they need to pay a ransom in order to get them back. In the two cases under investigation, no abduction ever took place.

“It was all a scam in an attempt to get money from the victims,” a release from the York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office said.

RELATED: ‘We have your daughter and we’re holding her’: Extortion scheme preys on parents worst fears

Deputies with the York County were called to the Tabb area of the county at 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 5 for a possible abduction. Authorities determined that Monday’s call was the second one made of the same nature in a month.

In both cases, the Sheriff’s Office learned, the victims were misled by the scammers to believe a loved one had been abducted. The scammers demanded ransom money from the victims.

Scam calls like these raise many concerns. Not only is this scary to the victims, investigating false crimes such as these take considerable resources. Good people often lose their hard earned money. It is believed that the suspects may have learned personal information through unsecured social media sites. Please be sure to review the settings of all of your social media accounts to make sure they are secured to protect yourself and your family. Please share this information with everyone you know so that others will not become a victim of this terrible scam!”

Sheriff Diggs, York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office

In June, 8News reported on a similar case where a Hanover family was worried for their daughter’s life only to learn that it was a virtual kidnapping scam.

The Sheriff’s Office also provided additional information, that can be found on the FBI’s website, to use in order to avoid being scammed:

The success of any type of virtual kidnapping scheme depends on speed and fear. Criminals know they only have a short time to exact a ransom before the victims unravel the scam or authorities become involved. To avoid becoming a victim, look for these possible indicators:

  • Callers go to great lengths to keep you on the phone, insisting you remain on the line.
  • Calls do not come from the supposed victim’s phone.
  • Callers try to prevent you from contacting the “kidnapped” victim.
  • Calls include demands for ransom money to be paid via wire transfer to Mexico; ransom amount demands may drop quickly.

If you receive a phone call from someone demanding a ransom for an alleged kidnap victim, the following should be considered:

  • 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.

If you suspect a real kidnapping is taking place or you believe a ransom demand is a scheme, contact local law enforcement immediately.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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