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Virtual Kidnapping - A Cyber Crime Rising

Jose Ramirez, a retired New York police officer and ultra-fit triathlete, is an 
Avoid Becoming a Victim
For criminals, the success of any type of virtual kidnapping depends on speed and fear. They know they only have a short time to exact a ransom payment before the victims and their families unravel the scam or authorities become involved. There are several possible indicators you can look for to avoid becoming a victim.
- View tips to avoid being victimized 
unlikely victim. But last December in Cancun, Mexico, after completing an Ironman competition, he was tricked into believing his life was in danger. Like an increasing number of U.S. citizens on both sides of the border, Ramirez was the target of an extortion scheme known as virtual kidnapping.

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An Old HoaxThat Still Worksclick to see the story
Unlike traditional abductions, virtual kidnappers do not intend to physically detain their victims. Instead, through various deceptions and threats of violence, they coerce individuals to isolate themselves from their families—or make families believe that their loved ones are being held—all to extract a quick ransom before the scheme falls apart.

Although these extortion schemes have been around for many years, their numbers are on the rise, and the criminals’ tactics are becoming more sophisticated. Since the threat is continuing to evolve, the FBI wants to raise public awareness to help people avoid being victimized.
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Related information on the Web

Cyber Kidnapping on CommunityDNS

Russia says U.S. 'kidnapped' cyberhacking suspect

Tips to Protect Yourself from Cyber Criminals

Avoid Becoming a Victim of Virtual Kidnapping

In one example of virtual kidnapping, criminals targeted the parents of a young woman traveling in Mexico—whose phone and contact information they had stolen—and told the family they would cut off her fingers unless money was wired to them immediately. A female accomplice screamed in the background for effect. (The woman whose phone was taken was never in danger, and didn’t know of the scheme until she contacted her family later.)

For criminals, the success of any type of virtual kidnapping depends on speed and fear. They know they only have a short time to exact a ransom payment before the victims and their families unravel the scam or authorities become involved.

To avoid becoming a victim, look for these possible indicators:
  • Callers go to great lengths to keep you on the phone, insisting you remain on the line.
  • Calls do not come from the victim’s phone.
  • Callers try to prevent you from contacting the “kidnapped” victim.
  • Multiple successive phone calls.
  • Incoming calls made from an outside area code.
  • Demands for ransom money to be paid via wire transfer, not in person; ransom demands may drop quickly.
If you receive a phone call from someone demanding a ransom for an alleged kidnap victim, the following course of action should be considered:
  • Try to slow the situation down. Request to speak to the victim directly. Ask, “How do I know my loved one is okay?”
  • Ask questions only the victim would know, such as the name of a pet. Avoid sharing information about you or your family.
  • Listen carefully to the voice of the kidnapped victim if they speak.
  • Attempt to call, text, or contact the victim via social media. Request that the victim call back from his or her cell phone.
  • To buy time, repeat the caller’s request and tell them you are writing down the demand, or tell the caller you need time to get things moving.
  • Don’t directly challenge or argue with the caller. Keep your voice low and steady.
If you believe you are a victim—like Jose Ramirez—FBI crisis negotiators suggest that you try to make contact with family members as quickly as possible, and get yourself to a place that feels safe.


  1. Thanks for the heads up! I found summarized tips at that can be of great help. While phone scammers won't stop anytime soon, phone scammers don't stand a chance as long as we are aware and vigilant.


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