Virtual Kidnapping: Four Charged in Virtual Scam

Val PowellBusiness, Life

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It seems that virtual kidnappings are on the rise. Recent investigations led to the arrest of four virtual kidnappers from Mexico.  According to a federal indictment unsealed on Friday 8, the kidnappers were using telecommunication tactics to collect money from the people they could pick under the guise that loved ones had been kidnapped while crossing to US illegally.

In reality, no one had been kidnapped and the ‘virtual’ kidnappers did not even know whom they were calling. But the kidnappers figured out that if they made enough calls, a few would result in a hit. When someone took the bait, they usually paid between $1,000 and $3,000. But in a small percentage of successes since 2007, the "virtual kidnappers" collected at least $500,000, federal investigators said.

According to Business Insider, the kidnappers targeted families in WashingtonDC because a large number of people residing there are immigrants and their migrant relatives are often out of contact during the long journey north.

It is reported that the kidnappers picked people to call at random. “They would just randomly run through a sequence of numbers, like 1 to 100,” said Daniel Page, assistant special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs and Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations unit in San Diego. “They’re just like your professional telemarketer. They have a script. ‘You need to pay this money. If you don’t, something’s going to happen.’”

The callers from Tijuana, Mexico used about 30 different San Diego phone numbers to make the calls, sometimes up to 5,000 calls a day demanding that money be wired. Most payments were made in San Diego area and taken to Tijuana, Mexico.

Virtual crime is very common on Latin America, particularly in Brazil, Mexico and Guatemala. It is the high crime rates in those countries that lead people to believe it when a stranger calls them to inform them that a loved one has been kidnapped.  Many calls are often placed by inmates in prison and they use social networking to convince the family members that indeed their family members have been kidnapped.

(image via Wikimedia)

Val Powell

I’m a content writer, blogger, SEO enthusiast, visual artist, world traveler and lover of spicy foods. I also live and work in Queens, New York.

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