You are here

Fake kidnappers cause genuine loss

Share this page

Phone scammers spend their days making trouble. They waste our time, tie up our phone lines and harass us with ugly language. Some do much, much worse. The FTC has heard from people who got calls from scammers saying, “I’ve kidnapped your relative,” and naming a brother, sister, child or parent. “Send ransom immediately by wire transfer or prepaid card,” they say, “or something bad will happen.”

They’re lying. They didn’t kidnap anyone, but they hope you’ll panic and rush to pay ransom before checking the story. Dozens of people told the FTC they got calls like this and paid $100 to $1,900 — often by wire transfer — to the kidnappers. To stop you from checking out the story, scammers order you to stay on the phone until the money is sent. There’s pressure to pay quickly, and the caller says not to contact anyone. And, of course, scammers demand payment by wire transfer or prepaid cards. Why? Because it’s difficult to trace or recover money sent that way.

The FBI calls this scam virtual kidnapping. Scammers scour the internet and social media sites, grabbing information about where people live, work, or travel, and names of friends and family. The cons use the details to pick a target and make their calls sound credible. To cut down on the information that scammers can find, think about limiting access to your networking pages — and encourage your family to do the same. Never post your Social Security number or account numbers online, and only share your phone number with your friends and contacts.

If you get a call like this, remember that it’s fake, no matter how scary it sounds. Even if it feels really real, never wire money or pay by prepaid card to anyone who asks you to. If you’re worried about the call, get off the phone and get in touch with the relative or friend in question – just to reassure yourself. And then report it to the FTC.

Blog Topics: 
Money & Credit
Scam Tags:  Family Emergency Scams


Unbelievable. what is getting done about this?

I can't believe people still fall for scammers.

Well, unfortunately not everybody has heard about these scams, and if they call you in the right moment, they can get you. I´m new to the country and it happened to me. They started telling me about an accident in which a friend of mine was involved and I fell in the trap. At the beginning they are just looking for someone to help the person, and then, they tell you a terrible story telling you the they are criminals and they shot your friend. They tell you that if you don´t pay them, they´ll finish him. I had a very bad time and I "just" lost $50. When I managed to talk to the police they told me that it was a scam, but they didn´t really care about the number they were calling from. Their answer is that this happens all the time. The people who called me were asked me to send the money vía moneygram to Jose

thank you scam alerts to care as about so many dangerous people

I have received two or three calls, they have some type of Indian accent, you can tell it's not English, anyways they claim that you have been selected to receive a free grant for college, the first time I received the call I almost started to fall for it as I a college student. They claim to be from some educational department,they say that you have been selected for a $9,700 grant because you have no back taxes due, and you have no convictions, and you're actively enrolled in a university, they have you all excited and happy, knowing you could really use this free grant, all types of grants are free, you don't have to pay GRANTS back, anyways, at the very end, that's when I realized J wax being scammed, they tell me all I have to do is give them my credit card number or checking account number, I said why do you need that information, they say because you have to pay $250.00 for the check TRANSFER FEE., the 2nd time they tried to do it, they wanted, $175.00, FOR the transfer fee. Please beware, some of my other friends have also received these FAKE CALLS, but they were aware of it because I warned them.They're phone number area code is a Washington,DC. Number, I checked, that makes people seem like its all the more lagitament but that is just another ploy of theirs. I know this type of money would really be nice for college students, or anyone, but please don't fall for it, THEY ARE SCAMMERS, THIEVES, CRIMINALS TO SAY THE VERY LEAST, let them know your on to them, that ONE NEVER HAS TO PAY MONEY FOR A GOVERNMENT GRANT, OR ANY TYPE OF GRANT.THANK YOU ALL.

Yes,It's real.

I keep receiving a phone call telling me that the IRS is filing charges on me and that I should call 1-707-782-6467. They have called 4 times today alone!!!!

their needs to be a place to call to see when it is legitment. That would be easier for ppl who feel sorry for these crazy lietrs

If this does happen, and you have a chance to use a cell phone if you have one, or maybe that someone is with you, you can call on that and not hang up on the scam caller.


I keep receiving IRS scam phone calls and when i tell them i know theyre fake and to stop calling they threaten me with obscene language. I have filed so many reports and nothing is being done at all. I keep getting the same phone calls from the same people from the same number. Phone number 3473495463

We have been scammed by someone who claims they are from Microsoft. They will clean ur computer, put in protection and you can call them 24/7 for $169.00. Sounded good and at first this Indian guy was real nice. Then they stopped so we wanted our money back. That was last year and no money. They finally called us this year and said that company ran out of business but they would make it up to us.They went into our computer I guess you would call it by using a robot and they stole our main password. We said forget it and he started laughing. We would have to send him $700 by money gram and then we could get our password back. We have called the police,a lawyer that helps senior citizens and the list goes on and on.

#AmericanGreedTV it was on a recent episode. So thanks for the warning. If u could tell us why it takes more then 6 months to get a case to get an arrest warrant that would help us understand why your so slow stopping telemarketers

Scammers called said niece was hurt in accident and now being held for ransom. Turns out they had my niece on another line claiming her brother (my nephew) was in same situation. This is how they verify information when you are asking for proof of life - it really is their voice. I knew it was a scam, but my niece didn't until the end (and she lost $100 to them) ... they even sounded off gunshots in the background to scare the dickens out of her. Please, please tell your loved ones and especially elderly parents/grandparents about this scam so that they do not fall prey either financially or medically ill (heart attack from the shock and stress).

That is just really sad. Let's hope this scam stops for good.

I got just this kind of kidnapping call. 99% of me knew it was a scam. But the location of supposed accident and related "kidnapping" was in fact a route that my son was to travel that day. Of course, he was in the shower and did not answer his phone. Plus they make you believe if you call the loved ones phone you will make it worse. We demanded they answer our questions without answering theirs. They hung up, but called back. Then my husband took the call, while I got on the phone with the police. The police went to my son's house and made sure he was ok. But they would not take a police report on the matter. "it happens all the time". No ONE is working to stop this, as far as I can see. I'm SICK of scam calls!

Well, there are real kidnappers in the world. I hope everyone follows guidelines and is safe. They need not both me because I will turn them in evern if they threaten my life.

I've been scammed taken advantage of by several dept. In Salinas ca. When is gov. Ganna stop this it emoyee who don't care or ex employee helping the one they UAE to work with

You could contact your state Attorney General’s office about the problems you experienced.

The virtual kidnapping scam is the biggest risk for those people who like to post everything about them selves on the Internet, like Facebook. One prevent measure I can think of, if you get a questionable call, is ask the scammer to answer a question that only the "kidnapped" person can answer, that has not been posted on the Internet.

Wonder it this will turn out to be what happened in the Panini case.

They had my dsughter on another phone, not known to me. They said they had her and said "here, talk to her, and it was her! Her voice! Ended up they had us on 3 way call somehow. They told her they wire with me at gunpoint. When you get a call like this, and your child's voice is on it, you dont second guess. Please dont be so harsh in your judgement until you walk in these terrifying shoes!

It does happen. It happened to my wife this AM. Fortunately I was home. It started with a child crying that she is being hurt and to please rescue them from the “bad people”, then the extortionist grabs the phone and says they have your child. They first demand a “large sum” of money but begin to negotiate down, all the while threatening over and over that they will kill your child if you don’t pay quickly. The trick is that your fear will overwhelm your ability to think rationally. Hindsight is 20/20, but who can take the risk of hangin up when you fear they have your child? Luckily I was home and could run and get my kids from their school, but many people cannot. Just imagine the horror if you are trapped at home without the ability to verify your child’s condition.

They called my boyfriend's mom and told her they had both of us and were going to kill us if she didn't send 1000 or if she hung up the phone. They even described us to her and she ended up sending them the money. She called our phones crying after they hung up with her asking us where we were and if we were safe.
I could see how someone would believe this.. how do you know it's not real?

The scammers make it really hard for people to find out if it's real. Sometimes when people get those scam calls, they have another person with them, and the other person can use a second phone to call the person who got "kidnapped," or can check on the "kidnapped" person's social media to see where they really are, or find them somehow.

Leave a Comment