BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — The Bakersfield Police Department is warning residents of a possible "virtual kidnapping" scam circulating.
According to BPD, the department has received reports of a phone scam in which a victim is told his or her family member has been kidnapped and a ransom is demanded. These cases have mainly involved parents of missing and runaway juveniles after they post their home phone numbers on social media in an attempt to locate their loved one.
As of now, none of these incidents have been legitimate kidnappings or ransom demands. In all cases thus far, the attempt at obtaining a ransom payment only occurred after a public posting containing personal contact information.
BPD said unlike traditional abductions, virtual kidnappers have not actually kidnapped anyone. Instead, through deceptions and threats, they coerce victims to pay a quick ransom before the scheme falls apart.
If you suspect a real kidnapping is taking place or you believe a ransom demand is a scheme, BPD said you should immediately call 911.
The following should be considered if you receive a call, which usually originates from other area codes, states or countries:
- Attempt to contact the alleged victim via phone, text, or social media, and request that they call back from their cell phone.
- Contact family members to determine if they have been called as well.
- If you engage the caller, do not disclose your loved one’s name or provide any identifying information.
- Try to slow the situation down. The success of any type of virtual kidnapping scheme depends on speed and fear. Criminals know they only have a short time to exact a ransom before the victims unravel the scam or authorities become involved.
- Request to speak to your family member directly. Ask: “How do I know my loved one is OK?”
- Ask questions only the alleged kidnap victim would know, such as the name of a pet. Avoid sharing information about yourself or your family.
- Listen carefully to the voice of the alleged victim if they speak. Often it is someone posing as the kidnap victim.
- To buy time, repeat the caller’s request and tell them you are writing down the demand, or tell the caller you need more time.
- Do not agree to meet the caller in person. Such a meeting can be dangerous 3.
Anyone with information regarding this case is encouraged to the Bakersfield Police Department at (661) 327-7111.