School placed on lockdown after virtual kidnapping scam
–On Friday, the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office received a call from a woman who reported what she thought was a kidnapping in progress. The woman says she had received a phone call from a man claiming he had kidnapped her daughter and she was to proceed to a bank in Nipomo to withdraw money for a ransom payment.
Deputies immediately responded to the school her daughter was attending, Dorothea Lange Elementary School in Nipomo. The school was placed on lockdown as a precaution at approximately 11:43 a.m. Deputies were able to make contact with the girl and make sure she was safe. The lockdown was lifted at approximately 12:20 p.m. when the mother and daughter were reunited.
Investigators are calling this another example of the virtual kidnapping scam. These extortion schemes are alarming in nature because they typically involve an individual who contacts a victim via telephone and demands payment for the return of a “kidnapped” family member or friend. No actual kidnapping takes place. Most schemes use various techniques to instill a sense of fear, panic, and urgency in an effort to rush the victim into making a very hasty decision. The criminal’s success depends on this generated urgency 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. Criminals often use social media to gather information and track their potential victims.
To avoid becoming a victim, look for these possible scam 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.
If you receive a phone call from someone demanding a ransom for an alleged kidnap victim and you suspect it is a scam, the following course of action should be considered:
* Immediately contact family members.
* Notify law enforcement.
If you have any questions about whether a ransom demand is a scheme or a legitimate kidnapping, contact the FBI or your nearest law enforcement agency immediately. Report virtual kidnappings to the FBI Los Angeles Office at (310) 477-6565.