Laguna Beach police are warning of a “virtual kidnapping” scam in which callers claim to have abducted children and threaten to kill them unless their parents wire money to an account in Mexico.
In the recent Laguna cases, two parents were contacted March 7 and 8 by someone who claimed to have kidnapped their daughters. In both cases, the caller demanded a large amount of money and directed the parents to go to Costa Mesa to wire it to a Mexican account.
In one case, a man sent $5,000 before finding out his daughter was safe and had not been kidnapped.
In the other, a woman called Laguna Beach police before wiring any money and was able to confirm her daughter was safe.
“We believe the suspect was able to learn personal information of the victim through unsecured social media sites (i.e., Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.),” according to a statement from the Laguna Beach Police Department. “Review the settings of all your social media sites to make sure they are secured to protect yourself against being a victim.”
The department provided several tips on how to recognize whether such a call could be a scam:
The call does not come from the supposed kidnapping victim’s phone.
The caller tries to prevent you from contacting the supposed victim.
The caller goes to great lengths to keep you on the line.
The caller demands that ransom be paid via wire transfer to Mexico.
The amount of the ransom demand drops quickly.
If you receive a similar call, the department suggests the following: