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Army investigators issue warning about ‘virtual kidnapping’ scam

A parent in an Army family got a threatening phone call recently from someone claiming a child in the family had been abducted, and demanding money for the safe return of the child.

The parent called the school and learned the child was safe and in class.

Virtual kidnapping hoaxes aren’t a new type of scam, but because this recently happened to someone in the Army community, a warning has come out from officials at the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command.

The scam usually involves a phone call in which the caller claims to have taken a child or a loved one. The caller says something like “I’ve kidnapped your kid. Send money or the kid dies,” according to CID.

Victims of this scam have reported hearing screams, crying or pleas for help, all effects that are fake to persuade the victims to respond to the demands.

The scammers appear to choose their victims randomly.

“They dial sequential numbers until the call is answered by someone they can shock into believing that their child has been kidnapped,” CID officials said in a release Wednesday. “The caller's approach is forceful, well scripted and can be very convincing."

If you get such a call, the CID advises trying to end the phone call and then confirm the safety of the person who the caller claims to have taken, or ask the caller to put the child on the phone.

Do not confirm or tell them any details about you or your family, officials say.

Remember the scammers work on fear and impulsiveness to try to coerce “ransom” money from their victims. If you need to buy time, ask the caller to repeat the requests and tell them you need time to respond, officials advise.

If you do suspect a real kidnapping is taking place, do not hesitate to contact the nearest FBI office, CID or law enforcement agency.

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