Las Vegas police are warning the public of virtual kidnapping, a new scheme in which phone scammers falsely claim to have kidnapped a family member and then demand a ransom.
Metropolitan Police Department Sgt. Steve Junge said 25 to 30 such calls have been reported locally since December and one Las Vegas woman was scammed out of $1,000.
The scammers, who call from unknown or international phone numbers, use a decoy sound, often of a child crying and yelling for mommy or daddy’s help, Junge said. In a January blog post, AARP reported that many of these schemes get phone numbers and names from people who search websites, social media sites or online directories.
Junge said the schemers try to keep the target on the phone until the ransom is paid, usually by wire transfer.
Junge said he was the target of a similar scam about a year ago.
“They kept saying whatever you do, don’t call the police, don’t call the police. I said, ‘I didn’t, you did.’ They asked, ‘What do you mean?’ I said, ‘Dude, I’m a cop.’ And they hung up,” Junge said.
If you receive a phone call from someone who demands payment of ransom for a kidnapped victim, Junge recommends:
■ Slowing the conversation down and request to speak directly with the alleged kidnap victim.
■ Listening carefully to the voice of the kidnapped victim if they speak.
■ Not divulging any information about the alleged kidnap victim.
■ Trying to contact/locate the family member who is alleged to have been kidnapped.
■ Contacting police by calling 911 or reporting the scam by calling 311.
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