CALEXICO, Calif. – Seven families have been targeted by virtual kidnappers, which are thieves who call and claim to have kidnapped a family member for ransom.
“We got a call saying that one of our family members was being held captive by a group of people and they wanted money in return for her safety,” said a Calexico family.
A member of one of those families, who didn’t want to be identified spoke to us and says he talked to one of the people acting as a kidnappers over the phone.
“The person obviously was aggressive, demanding money,” the family said.
They described the alleged kidnap victim and played recordings of painful screams.
“Everything sounded real,” the family said.
They ordered the families to take money out of their bank accounts while they stayed on the phone.
“Get in the car, go to the bank, withdraw some money, go to the local Western Union and deposit the money under this name,” the family member said.
The family obeyed because they feared for the victim which they believed was kidnapped.
“They said that if we didn’t supply the money right away they would start harming our sibling,” the family said.
After they had sent one payment, they were able to contact their family member who wasn’t really kidnapped by was safe with a friend. The kidnapping had been a scam but the fear had been real.
“It’s terrorizing,” the family said.
Calexico police say scams such as these cases of virtual kidnappings are increasing.
“Now we’re seeing it’s occurring a lot,” Calexico detective Albert Llanas said.
Llanas said some criminals use technology to target victims.
“A lot of it has to do with social media,” Llanas said.
Where people often reveal a lot of personal information. In this case there were no physical victims but there was a lot of fear which has already left a scar in the families.
“Until you go through it, it’s really terrorizing,” said the family of the alleged kidnap victim.
Police advise families to communicate more when they go out and to post less personal information on social media.