Authorities are warning about a scam in which criminals call parents’ cell phones and demand money, claiming to have kidnapped their son or daughter, the Washington Post reports. The scam is known as virtual kidnapping. The callers target affluent areas and find enough information online to make their ruse plausible. Scores of families have been targeted in California, especially in Beverly Hills, since last year. Then it happened in New York and Texas. Now there’s a rash of cases in the Washington, D.C., area.
“In the scheme, individuals call claiming to have kidnapped a family member,” said the Prince William County, Va., police. “While no actual kidnapping has taken place, the callers often use co-conspirators to convince their victims of the legitimacy of the threat.” The Post told the story of Wendy Mueller. By her Zip code, it’s easy to tell she lives in the nation’s wealthiest county, Loudoun County, Va. Last week, a man convinced her to wire thousands of dollars to Mexico to keep her daughter, 23, from being killed. The daughter actually was safe.