Kidnapping Scam Targets Local Residents
Public Safety Dispatchers are seeing an increase in kidnapping scams in Santa Clara - referred to as virtual kidnapping.
Basically, it’s an extortion scheme where a caller tries to trick a parent or grandparent, through deceptions and threats of violence or death, into paying a ransom to "save" a child’s life. Often times, a child can be heard crying hysterically in the background or calling out "Daddy / Mommy...help me!"
The success of any type of phone scam depends on fear and speed. Criminals know they only have a short time to demand 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; 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 immediately
- 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
- Do NOT 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 contact the Santa Clara Police Department by calling 9-1-1. If you believe you are a victim of a ransom demand scheme, call the non-emergency phone line at (408)615-5580.