"Virtual Kidnapping" Scammers Target Delaware Residents - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

"Virtual Kidnapping" Scammers Target Delaware Residents

Posted: May 22, 2018 5:01 PM Updated:

SEAFORD, Del.- Tammy Daniels of Seaford said an anxious couple hours began after getting a phone call from a person claiming her son, Leroy, was in trouble.

"It sounded like my son was on the other end saying, 'Mom! Mom! Help me!" she said.

Daniels and Leroy's father spoke with the person on the other line and were told not to contact police. The pair were given a demand: pay $4,000 or Leroy could die.

It was $4,000 neither parent had.

"The person said, 'Well, his dad said he doesn't have that kind of money so as far as I'm concerned, consider your son dead," she said.

Daniels eventually found her son was alive and well --- at Seaford High School, where he was supposed to be.

The scam that targeted Daniels is called virtual kidnapping and the scammers behind it often threaten to kill or harm loved ones unless they're given money.

Sgt. Richard Bratz, a Delaware State Police spokesman, said scammers behind virtual kidnappings often use recordings or publicly available personal information to try and convince a victim that their loved one is in danger.

In virtual kidnapping cases, Bratz said scammers use threats in an attempt to make a victim send them money quickly --- before asking too many questions.

"They say they know you and they start saying some of the names of your family members and loved ones --- they act like they know who you are but they don't," he said.

Bratz said oftentimes that information can be gleaned from social media or public databases like property records, but in each case the scammer is lying about the status of a victim's loved one.

"Immediately you should know it's a scam," he said.

Delaware State Police offered the following guidelines for dealing with virtual kidnapping scams:

  • 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 OK?”
  • 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 cellphone.
  • 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.
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