We urge all community members to be advised of a recent increase in "virtual kidnapping" scams, where scammers manipulate individuals into believing a family member or friend has been kidnapped and coerce them to pay a ransom. To avoid falling victim to this emerging cyber scam, please be aware of the following indicators:

  • Calls from unusual area codes or unknown phone numbers: These scam calls may originate from outside your area code, sometimes from locations like Puerto Rico and often with area codes (787), (939), and (856). Both the FBI and the National Institutes of Health have stated that these calls do not come from the allegedly “kidnapped” individual’s phone.
  • Attempts to prevent communication and extend the phone call: The caller may attempt to hinder you from contacting or locating the supposedly "kidnapped" victim. They will also go to great lengths to keep the call active.

It’s important to recognize the signs of this scam and understand the correct way to respond. If you suspect that you are a victim of a virtual kidnapping scam, do not engage with the caller. Hang up without giving any information, especially any personal or family information. Immediately attempt to contact the alleged victim with a number you know is legitimate to ensure their safety. Contact your local authorities to report the incident.

You can take proactive steps to prevent virtual kidnapping scams. Adjust the privacy settings on your social media accounts to limit public access to personal information. It’s also a good idea to make sure your family members and loved ones are aware of this type of scam. We can help keep ourselves and our community secure by staying informed and adopting protective practices.