FBI: Fake kidnapping calls are on the rise - WNEM TV 5

FBI: Fake kidnapping calls are on the rise

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The FBI is out with a new warning about an increase in fake kidnapping calls.

It’s when criminals lie about taking a loved one and then demand money. The FBI is launching an awareness campaign to fight the growing scam.

"I don't think my adrenaline has ever been that high,” Don Ferguson said.

The kidnapping calls came to a father in the Dallas, Texas area.

"He told me if I dropped this call, he was gonna kill my son,” Ferguson said.

Kidnappers called Valerie Sobel in Los Angeles, too, saying they'd taken her daughter.

"The man says, 'We have cut off her finger and if you want the rest of her in a body bag, it's your choice,’” Sobel said.

To get her back, he told Sobel she'd have to send them money. 

"If you disconnect this phone, she's dead,” Sobel said they told her.

She stayed on the line for over two hours and sent close to $4,000 to Mexico as directed. Then the would-be kidnappers hung up.

Her daughter hadn't been kidnapped, though. She was fine. 

However, the FBI said these fake kidnapping calls are on the rise.

"It's a get rich quick scheme where they can extort victims and have them wire money into Mexico,” said Tim Ferguson with the FBI.

Ferguson said those calls usually come from criminals in Mexican prisons. He said prisoners used smuggled cell phones to random-dial numbers in the United States and make their threats. Then, prisoners' friends or family pick up the cash sent by victims to money transfer locations.

"I don't necessarily think that it's just in the prison systems, but I would say the large majority of the ones that we do have do come from the prison systems because the individuals there don't have anything but time,” Tim Ferguson said.

So how do you know if the call is a fake?  The FBI said out-of-state area codes are one tipoff – as well as the request to wire smaller amounts of money from multiple locations, down to Mexico.

The FBI is focused on one group of criminals, but agents said they need the public's help to find more.

>>To report a call click here<<

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