OC Police Warning Parents of Terrifying 'Virtual Kidnappings'

March 18, 2019 - 4:37 pm
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(KNX 1070) -- Police in Orange County are teaming up with the FBI to solve a series of virtual kidnapping cases which appear to be connected. 

The scam begins with a phone a call from an unknown number. Whoever is on the other line then claims to have kidnapped the person’s child and demands an immediate wire transfer of thousands of dollars to an international account.

At many points in the conversation, they remind you that if you hang up the phone or it gets disconnected they will kill or take the life of your son or daughter.

Laguna Beach Police Sgt. Jim Cota says the scammers don’t actually kidnap children but they convince the parents it’s real by using information from social media.

“They are happening in surrounding cities and all appear to be connected to the same group,” Cota told the Orange County Register. “All of them want money transferred to an account in Mexico and they are directing victims outside of the city to withdraw money. It’s like they’ve been there before. They’re sending them all to Costa Mesa.”

According to the OC Register, on March 7, a Laguna Beach resident reported to police that he had been a victim of the kidnapping scam after he already had paid $5,000.

“At 2:30 pm, the victim received a cellphone call from a suspect who stated he had kidnapped the victim’s daughter and was holding her and wanted $5,000 or he would kill her,” Cota said. “The suspect ordered the victim to stay on the phone with him throughout this incident. The victim became fearful for his daughter and after briefly hearing a female scream into the phone stating she had been kidnapped, the victim went to his bank and withdrew $5,000.

“The victim then was directed to go to various wire transfer locations outside the city where he transferred the money to an account in Mexico,” Cota said. “At about 6:30 pm, as the victim was completing the last transaction, he received a call from his daughter who was fine in Laguna Beach.”

Our advice is to make sure that you have your social media settings on private so that only your friends can see your information.

Cot adds that if anyone receives a similar phone call, keep the person on the line and drive to the nearest police station so detectives can help you figure out what to do next.