In a new scam targeting older adults, callers demand money immediately to free a kidnapped relative. They threaten physical harm to the relative if funds are not delivered. The warning of the new scam was issued this week by Attorney General George Jepsen and Dept of Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan Harris.
“Grandparent scams are especially egregious in that they prey on family members, particularly seniors,” said Attorney General Jepsen.
“This version of the scam is of great concern due to the extreme allegations that the scammers make and the threats of violence directed toward a family member they claim to have kidnapped. Mr. Jepsen urges families to take the time to talk to their parents and grandparents about this scam’s prevalence and warning signs.
“While the threat of kidnapping is terrifying, the person receiving the call must stay calm and not overreact out of fear,” Harris said.
The scammers work to instill a sense of panic and urgency in an effort to rush the victim into sending money to save or free their loved one.
Victims are often ordered to stay on the phone until money is wired, often to a third party. The scammers demand “ransom” payments from $600 to $1,900 or more. In some cases, even after a payment is made, the scammers claim the money was not received and demand additional funds.
According to law enforcement officials, some warning signs of this scam include:
- Most of the calls come from out-of-state or foreign area codes.
- The fake kidnappers try to keep you on the phone; real kidnappers usually hang up in order to prevent the call from being traced.
- The calls do not come from the relative’s phone.
- The callers demand that “ransom” money be sent by wire transfer service.
If you receive a call that you suspect is a kidnapping scam, law enforcement officials advise:
- Ask to speak to the relative directly. Ask, “How do I know my loved one is all right?”
- If you aren’t allowed to speak to your relative, ask the caller to describe your relative or the vehicle they would be driving.
- If you are allowed to speak to your relative, listen to their voice. Does it sound like your relative?
- If you can, use another phone or computer to reach your loved one through social media or text messages. Ask them to get right back to you because it’s urgent.
- Stay calm and avoid arguing with the caller. Keep your voice low and steady.
- If you find that your loved one is safe and the call is a scam, hang up the phone and contact your local police department immediately.
If you believe your relative is the victim of a real kidnapping, call 911 or your local FBI office.
For more information about family emergency scams, click here to visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Web site.