VERONA/CEDAR GROVE, NJ – According to Cedar Grove police, a Verona woman was the victim of a virtual kidnapping scam on Tuesday.
An investigation revealed the victim received a telephone call from a man claiming to have kidnapped the victim’s husband and demanding the victim pay $1,700.00 for his release. The victim was instructed to send a MoneyGram in that amount to an individual in Puerto Rico, which she did.
After doing so, she went to her Pompton Avenue bank to request assistance and the police were contacted. The responding officer, Ptl. Michael Grasso, was able to speak to the victim’s husband by telephone and determined he was at his place of employment in New York City and the kidnapping claim had been a fraud. The victim then attempted to cancel the MoneyGram, but was informed the money had already been picked up in Puerto Rico. The matter was referred to the detective bureau for further investigation.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) recently released a warning to the public about Virtual Kidnapping Scams. Similar to this case, an individual will call potential victims claiming to have kidnapped a family member. Callers will typically provide victims with specific instructions to ensure safe return of the allegedly kidnapped individual. Instructions often involve demands of a ransom payment. Victims are ordered to stay on the phone until the money is wired, often to a third party in Puerto Rico. Callers will use various techniques to instill a sense of fear, panic and urgency in an effort to rush the victim into making a very hasty decision. To avoid becoming a victim of this scam, look for the following possible indicators:
- Incoming calls from an outside area code, sometimes from Puerto Rico area codes 787, 939, and 856.
- Calls that do not come from the alleged kidnap victim’s phone,
- Callers that go to great lengths to keep you on the phone,
- Callers that prevent you from talking to the alleged kidnap victim,
- Demand that ransom money be sent via a wire transfer service.
If you receive a phone call from someone demanding ransom for a kidnapped family member, consider doing the following:
- Try to slow the situation down. Request to speak to the alleged victim directly.
- If the caller won’t let you speak to victim, ask them describe the victim.
- While staying on the line with the caller, attempt to call the victim from another phone, or attempt to text or contact the victim via social media.
- Don’t directly challenge or argue with the caller.
- To buy time, repeat the caller’s request and tell them you are writing down the instructions while you or someone else contacts the police for assistance.