The FBI issued an alert across Southern California Tuesday about a “virtual kidnapping” scam.
They say people claiming to be kidnappers are terrorizing local families.
The scammers get the victim’s phone number then calls them saying they have kidnapped a loved one and want the victim to pay money and then they make threats.
“They told me that ‘we have your daughter Simone’s finger — do you want the rest of her in a body bag?,’ ” victim Valerie Von Sobel said at a news conference Tuesday with FBI, Homeland Security and LAPD.
Von Sobel said she was convinced she could hear her daughter screaming on the other end of the line.
“She called me mom. ‘I’m terrified. Please help,’ ” said Von Sobel.
She said she followed the instructions and wired $4,000 to the supposed kidnappers, only to find later that her daughter was just fine.
Law enforcement leaders want the public to know about the scam so you don’t get fooled.
Here’s what to look for:
- Most of the scam artists are calling from Mexico. Many have Spanish accents.
- They will demand that you stay on the phone so you don’t have a chance to see that your loved ones are actually OK.
- They will instruct you to send money or valuables immediately — either by wiring it or delivering the loot to a specific location.
If you get a call like this, please understand how common these schemes have become,” said FBI Agent Gene Kowel. “In many cases the thieves will use social media to learn info about you and potential victims. Contact your loved one immediately if you get a call like this to confirm they are OK and then contact the FBI or local law enforcement.”