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Virtual Kidnapping Incidents Are On the Rise

2014-11-05 22:25

The social engineering skills of criminals are well honed to help them trick individuals into a scam called virtual kidnapping, which is aimed at extorting money from the family of an alleged “victim.”

The deception relies solely on the power of persuasion of the criminal, who tries to coerce someone to become isolated from any form of contact with their families.

Next, the family is informed that one of the members has been abducted and is to suffer physical pain unless a ransom is paid.

Upon trying to contact their loved one, they would not receive any answer, fueling concern and the belief that the ransom demand was not a prank.

Cutting off communication is the first stage of the scam

The FBI presented the case of Jose Ramirez, a retired police officer, that fell into this type of trap while in Cancun, Mexico, in December 2013.

Despite being a seasoned lawman, he was made to believe that his life was in danger, and convinced to purchase a new mobile phone and to switch to a different hotel, two things that would generally be enough to disrupt contact with the family and close ones.

Despite living in a day and age where numerous means of communication are available, we still depend on just a few devices. Take the mobile phone out of the picture, and the user can no longer rely on communication, be it via voice or text (email, IM, SMS, MMS, social networks).

In the case of Ramirez, he received a phone call at 1 AM from someone claiming to be affiliated with the Zeta cartel, telling him that a $10,000 / €8,000 fine has to be paid.

Armed with plenty of information about the mark, the criminal threatened with framing the ex-officer for drug possession and even with murder.

The entire scenario developed in the course of three days, during which Ramirez was instructed to move to a different hotel, ditch his phone and withdraw the fee from a bank.

It all ended with the wife of the victim alerting local authorities. Soon, the FBI was involved and the New Yorker was recovered unscathed.

FBI offers some advice for the potential victims

“It’s big business for them, and they do it well,” said Special Agent Brian Wittenberg. “Since the threat is continuing to evolve, the FBI wants to raise public awareness to help individuals from becoming victims,” he added.

The number of virtual kidnappings is increasing, and authorities advise anyone receiving this sort of calls to get to a place that feels safe and try to call family.

Alternatively, if the extortion is attempted on the family, the one thing to remember is that the purpose of the criminal is to extract the money, which offers a powerful advantage to the victim.

Source: XQtMHduVGZpNmbJ1yZulGcwFmbkl2StwWY1RncpZ1LzdXZu9SbvNmLhlGZlBHdm92cuM3dl52LvoDc0RHa/ca.ssr.dps

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