On August 31, 2016, the Erie Police Department took a fraud report where the victim received a phone call telling her a gang had kidnapped her son. The victim was told not contact anyone and not to hang up or they would kill her son. The victim was then instructed to stay on the phone with the caller, go to her bank to withdraw money and send the money by Western Union to a person in Puerto Rico. After the money was sent, the victim made contact with her son and found he was all right and the entire call had been a scam. Another similar incident occurred in a neighboring jurisdiction on September 5, 2016, however in this incident the scam was averted when the person who was reportedly abducted was contacted prior to sending any money.
For criminals, the success of any type of abduction fraud or virtual kidnapping depends on speed and fear. They know they only have a short time to exact a ransom payment before the victims and their families unravel the scam or authorities become involved. To avoid becoming a victim, the FBI advises to 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 victim’s phone.
• Callers try to prevent you from contacting the “kidnapped” victim.
• Multiple successive phone calls.
• Incoming calls made from an outside area code.
• Demands for ransom money to be paid via wire transfer, not in person; ransom demands may drop quickly.
Financial scams are prevalent in today’s technologically connected society. Some other recent scams include the “IRS” demanding money or local courts claiming you missed jury duty, so you must pay a “fine.” Scammers target unsuspecting victims through phone calls, e-mails and face-to-face. They prey upon your emotions from excitement and joy to fear and intimidation and the types and styles of ruses are countless. The common thread is that all scammers hope to catch you off-guard and keep you off-balance so you act without thinking and don’t realize what’s happened until your money is already gone.
Should you receive calls similar to those described, please contact the Erie Police Department at 303-441-4444 to make a report.