San Angelo Police Department Warns of Spring Break Scam


SAN ANGELO, TX – The San Angelo Police Department released a statement on Wednesday warning of a potential scam regarding kidnapping spring breakers. 

The following is a press release sent out by the San Angelo Police Department:

Spring Break is just around the corner we would like to make the public aware of a “Virtual Kidnapping” scam that we have unfortunately dealt with multiple times in the past. This is a common scam around this time of year due to large sums of people traveling in and out of the country for the break.

Virtual kidnappings happen when a victim is told, over the phone, that his or her family member has been kidnapped. Then, through deception and threats, criminals coerce victims to pay a ransom. The criminals also threaten harm to the party(s) if they call law enforcement or alert authorities. No one is physically kidnapped in these schemes, but they are often traumatic for everyone involved. On average, the family sends thousands of dollars to the scammers before contacting law enforcement.

Authorities believe many more individuals have been victimized as well, but did not report the incidents to law enforcement—either out of fear or embarrassment. Individuals, families, and small businesses have all been the targets of the calls.

Callers, sometimes representing themselves as members of a drug cartel or corrupt law enforcement, will typically provide the victim with specific instructions to ensure safe “return” of the allegedly kidnapped individual. These instructions usually involve demands of a ransom payment. Most schemes 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. Instructions usually require the ransom payment to be made immediately and typically by wire transfer or prepaid credit cards (GreenDot, Visa, etc.). These schemes involve varying amounts of ransom demands, which often decrease at the first indication of resistance.

The perpetrators will often go to great lengths to engage victims in ongoing conversations to prevent them from verifying the status and location of the “kidnapped” individuals. Callers will often make their victims believe they are being watched and were personally targeted. In reality, many of these callers are outside of the United States, simply making hundreds of calls, possibly using phone directories or other phone lists.

To avoid becoming a victim of this extortion scheme, look for the following possible indicators:

*Calls are usually made from an outside area code

*May involve multiple phone calls

*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 or prepaid credit cards like Visa or GreenDot.

If you receive a phone call from someone who demands payment of a ransom for a kidnapped victim, the following should be considered:

*Stay Calm.

*Try to slow the situation down.

*Avoid sharing information about you or your family during the call.

*Request to speak to the victim directly. Ask, “How do I know my loved one is okay?”

*Request the kidnapped victim call back from his/her cell phone

*Listen carefully to the voice of the kidnapped victim if they speak and ask questions only they would know.

*If they don’t let you speak to the victim, ask them to describe the victim or describe the vehicle they drive, if applicable.

*While staying on the line with alleged kidnappers, try to call the alleged kidnap victim from another phone.

*Attempt to text or contact the victim via social media.

*Attempt to physically locate the victim.

*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.

*If you have any questions about whether the call is an extortion scheme or a legitimate kidnapping, contact your nearest FBI office or call 911 immediately. (Source: FBI El Paso)

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