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Kidnap scam

Purcell police: Local family targeted

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A reported kidnapping in which a Purcell family was targeted turned out to be a scam, according to police.

The “kidnapper” told a local couple they were holding the couple’s daughter and her children for ransom. If the ransom wasn’t paid, the kidnap victims would be killed.

According to Det. Sgt. Scott Stephens, the alleged victims were later found to be safe at home.

Scammers have used varying scenarios when perpetrating this across the country.

Stephens noted that the ransom calls are often placed  from prepaid cell phones. Many of the calls originate in Mexico and caller ID will show 52, the Mexican international calling code.

Some scammers claim to be part of a violent Mexican criminal organization.

They may spoof the alleged hostage’s phone number so it appears the hostage is making the call.

The scammers use information about the family gleaned from social media and during the call, an accomplice matching the hostage’s gender may be heard crying or screaming in the background..

It’s all about the ransom and payment may be demanded as a wire transfer, mobile phone apps or virtual currency such as Bitcoin.

Also, the scammer may try to keep the target on the phone as the ransom is paid. This is to prevent them from calling the “hostage” or police.

If you receive such a call, it is most likely a scam. Still, there are helpful suggestions if you find yourself on the receiving end of such a call.

These include:

  • Stay calm and try to slow the situation down.
  • Avoid sharing information about you or your family during the call.
  • Request to speak to the “hostage” directly.  Ask, “How do I know my loved one is okay?”
  • Request the kidnapped victim call back from his/her cell phone.
  • Listen carefully to the voice of the kidnap victim. If they speak, ask questions only they would know the answer to, i.e., specific events that only they and you would know and had not been previously posted to social media.
  • If they do not let you speak to the “hostage,” ask them to describe them or describe the vehicle they drive, if applicable.
  • While staying on the line with the alleged kidnappers, try to call the alleged victim from another phone.
  • Attempt to text or contact the “hostage” via social media.
  • Attempt to physically locate the victim.
  • To buy time, repeat the caller’s request and tell them you are writing down the instructions, or tell the caller you need time to get things moving.
  • Do not directly challenge or argue with the caller.  Keep your voice low and steady.
  • Do not send any items of value to the suspect.  Call police for further guidance. 

Stephens also recommends checking  your security settings with your social media sites.  There are usually guides or settings to make posts more private by sharing information only with  known friends and family.

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