In recent years, virtual kidnapping has become more common, and things you post online may make you a target. Virtual kidnapping occurs when a person calls a victim demanding a ransom, claiming to be holding a child or family member hostage. Criminals are becoming more technologically advanced and will spoof the phone number of your child to make it seem like they are calling from their own phone. They will even go as far as including screaming sounds in the background.
In the moment, it may seem like there aren’t any options other than giving in and following their demands. But there are steps to make sure your child is safe without giving in to the demands of this criminal.
Don’t Give Away Any Information
In many cases, the caller has already done some research and found information about you and your family to make the call sound as real as possible. To prevent this from happening, it’s important to share as little information online as possible, since this is most likely where callers get access. If you do receive one of these frightening calls, don’t give out any information right away; for example, by yelling out your child’s name, you may have just given the caller more leverage to use against you.
Come up with a code word with your child to use in case of emergencies like these. This way, if an event like this occurs, it will be easier to differentiate a real threat from a scam. Talk to your children about these potential dangers and create a code word they can easily remember.
Slow Down the Process
The people making these calls prey on your fear and want your compliance as fast as possible. If you ever receive a call that you think might be an attempt at virtual kidnapping, try stalling them for a bit, or at least as long as it would take you to get in contact with your child or loved one.
These criminals only have power if you are uninformed. If you receive this type of call, before you do anything else, try to get in contact with your child (or the person they claim to have kidnapped). It may seem obvious to get in touch with your child, but if you’re caught by surprise, your knee-jerk reaction may be to give in to their demands right away.
Most people do not report incidents like these, either because they weren’t directly affected or because the damage done was very minimal. It is important to report a call like this to authorities so that they are aware of the criminals and can potentially apprehend the caller. You can report to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, the Federal Communication Commission, or the Federal Trade Commission.