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City Newsroom

Kidnapping Scam Targets Local Residents

Post Date:06/28/2018 2:23 PM

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 / 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.

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