WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. - Law enforcement officials in Westchester are cautioning residents to be alert to avoid what has been called a “virtual kidnapping” scam.
In an alert issued to residents, the Eastchester Police Department warned that it has recently received reports of deceptive telephone scams targeting residents in the community.
One particular scam the department highlighted, is a “virtual kidnapping” scam, “due to the implied exigency and serious threatening nature” of such a call.
In such a scam, a resident may receive a phone call from an out of area number, with the caller stating that they have been involved in a car accident with a family member, who is likely to be identified by name. Police said that many times that family member is a teenager in high school or college, or a family member who is traveling, which would make it more difficult for a victim to verify quickly.
Police said that at that point, the caller is likely to demand a form of payment to be wired to them for damages to the vehicle, or will say that they are now holding the family member at gunpoint and will aggressively demand that the victim follow instructions.
“The perpetrators of this crime will study social media sites, where they are able to gather detailed information about those who share photos and personal information about family members,” officials said. “Then, with this information, they are able to convince some victims of these calls that this traumatic situation is occurring and needs to be rectified quickly by meeting their demands.”
In an effort to combat possible “virtual kidnapping” scams, police offered several steps for possible victims to take.
- Immediately try, or have someone else try, to make contact with the family member by calling school, or work from another phone;
- If using a smartphone, place the caller on speaker phone, which would allow the potential victim to text the family member from the phone to verify their safety;
- No money or gift cards should ever be wired or transferred;
- In the event it is a real situation, police should be called immediately.
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