(UNDATED) – Indiana authorities are calling attention to a new phone kidnapping hoax.
Officials say the callers are vigilant and violent and the perpetrators can appear to be calling from your loved one’s phone number.
There have been several incidents reported throughout Indiana.
According to the FBI, virtual kidnapping is a coercion scheme to extort ransom payments from victims who are tricked into believing that a loved one has been kidnapped or is in imminent danger.
Scam artists pressure their victims to pay ransom demands quickly before the hoax can be discovered. They rely on shocking threats and prefer to spend as little time as possible negotiating with victims.
It happens when the perpetrator steals someone’s contact list. They use phone numbers you recognize and frequently communicate with through something called “spoofing.”
The ability of scammers to “spoof” someone else’s phone number makes the scheme more realistic and dangerous. Spoofing happens when a caller falsifies the information transmitted to your caller ID, disguising their identity and making it appear the call is coming from someone else. Virtual kidnappers use stolen contact lists and troll the internet to find personal contact information about you and your family through social media and online search tools.
To bust the scam, the FBI recommends quickly reaching out to your loved one who’s allegedly been kidnapped to see if you can verify they are safe. If possible, stay on the line with the caller while quietly asking someone else to call the alleged kidnap victim. If no one else is available to make that call, discreetly text the victim to see if you can get a reply. Once verifying their safety, hang up with the caller.
If you are not able to contact the alleged kidnapping victim, the FBI says you should request “proof of life” and “proof of possession” that could verify the caller is telling the truth. Ask to speak with the kidnap victim. Ask for a photo showing the victim in captivity. Ask the caller a question that he would not know without getting the answer from the victim, such as the name of a relative’s pet. If the call is a hoax, the caller will resist all attempts to provide this type of proof.