A terrifying new scam is targeting New York City residents warns The Federal Bureau of Investigation and New York City Police Department. People are receiving calls from individuals claiming to have kidnapped a family member. No kidnapping has taken place, but the callers use co-conspirators to add believability to the story.
For example a caller might try to convince the victim that their loved one, maybe a husband or son has had a car accident with a member of the gang. The caller pretends to be a friend or relative of the gang member and tells the victim that their loved one is seriously injured and needs to be taken to a hospital but that their friend will not allow it, unless they receive compensation for the damaged vehicle.
The reasons given are varied but usually involve car accident, drug debt, gang assaults or smuggling. Victims are being dialed at random and no pattern has arisen yet, however the perpetrators appear to be Hispanic males, who often speak with a Spanish accent.
To avoid becoming a victim of this extortion scheme, look for the following possible indicators:
- Incoming calls come from an outside area code, sometimes from Puerto Rico with area codes (787), (939) and (856)
- Calls do not come from the kidnapped victim’s phone
- Callers go to great lengths to keep you on the phone
- Callers prevent you from calling or locating the “kidnapped” victim
- Ransom money is only accepted via wire transfer service
- If you receive a phone call from someone who demands payment of a ransom for a kidnapped victim, the following 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?”
- If they don’t let you speak to the victim, ask them to describe the victim or describe the vehicle they drive, if applicable.
- 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.
- While staying on the line with alleged kidnappers, try to call the alleged kidnap victim from another 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.
- Request the kidnapped victim call back from his/her cell phone.
Anyone with information about the virtual kidnapping should call the FBI at 212-384-1000 or the NYPD at 800-577-TIPS. If you believe you are the victim of a real kidnapping, please call 911 or your local FBI office. Tipsters may remain anonymous.
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Mr. Finkelstein is the Managing Partner of Finkelstein & Partners, LLP. He has become a noted consumer activist through his representation of injured individuals against corporate wrongdoers and irresponsible parties.
An accomplished litigator, Mr. Finkelstein has represented Plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has successfully handled dozens of multi-million dollar cases.