WRENTHAM, Mass. – The FBI is warning people across the country to beware of a growing scam called “virtual kidnapping.”
It’s when someone calls claiming they have kidnapped a loved one, and warns you not to hang up until you have wired them money.
Patricia Hebner of Wrentham, Mass., got a horrifying call on April 3.
“A man came on, and he said, ‘I have your daughter. She’s in the back of my van,'” Hebner told Fox News. The man continued to threaten her. “‘How much is your daughter’s life worth? Five thousand? Ten thousand?'”
The man claimed he had kidnapped Victoria Hebner while she was on vacation, and had Patricia listen to a frantic voice that she was told was her daughter.
“There was this screaming, crying, and I’m like ‘Oh my God,’ and they’re like ‘Mom, help me. Help me.’ And I said, ‘who is this? Victoria, is that you?'” Patricia said. “It was terrifying. It was real.”
During the call, Hebner ran to a neighbor’s house and had them call 911. Police tracked Victoria down and confirmed she was safe.
Wrentham Police said that the conmen use social media to identify people who are traveling.
“This way it’s difficult to contact them and ascertain their safety in the midst of being told they’ve been abducted,” the department explained on Facebook. “The scammer hopes you (the victim) will transfer the funds under extreme pressure and emotion before you can locate and contact your loved one and confirm it’s a scam.”
Law enforcement officials said one tip-off that it’s a scam is that the call is not coming from your loved one’s number.
Police said it’s tough to make arrests because the con artists are usually outside the United States and use untrackable pre-paid phones.