'Virtual kidnapping' scam dupes dozens into paying ransom money

'Virtual kidnapping' scam dupes dozens into paying ransom money”

Following the alleged kidnapper's demands, Sobel wired $4,000 to the caller to save her daughter. The indictment alleges that after taking her portion of the ransom money, Acosta wired the remainder to her co-conspirators in Mexico. It was a scam. "I didn't recognize the I tried to explain to her that she needed to call 911".

Los Angeles police and federal officials warned Tuesday that dozens of people have fallen prey to the scam in recent years and have paid out more than $100,000.

By comparison, actual kidnappings for ransom are rare.

Police in Los Angeles say they are tackling a rise in "virtual kidnappings", where people are terrorised into giving money to con artists.

In the fake kidnappings, the callers demand that the victims remain on the phone so they don't have a chance to call their loved ones, officials said. "Contact that loved one".

The Los Angeles, California, Field Offices of the FBI and IRS - Criminal Investigations conducted the investigation along with the police departments in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills, California, and the Montgomery County, Texas, Sheriff's Office with the assistance of Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations in Los Angeles.

"This is not a victimless crime", the woman said.

The LAPD has urged anyone who receives one of these calls to hang up immediately and contact their loved one.

Last week, a Texas woman became the first person in the nation to be indicted in connection with a virtual kidnapping scheme.

Acosta is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, eight counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to launder money.

Acosta, who also goes by Yanette Patino, faces up to 20 years in federal prison if convicted.

Victims were typically instructed to wire money to individuals in Mexico.

If the callers don't let you speak to the victim, ask them to describe the victim or describe the vehicle the victim drives, if applicable. In others, the crooks may use social media to obtain names of children and other facts that can be used to frighten specific victims. 'I'm terrified. Please help, ' " said Von Sobel.

Fear for a child's safety can override skepticism, authorities said. The call lasted a little over an hour, Smith said.

The phony kidnappers had threatened to "put a bullet in the back of her head" if he failed to pay a $1m ransom, but he negotiated them down to a mere $350 (£268).

Smith said he got off the freeway and flagged down some Torrance police officers who were able to call his daughters' school and confirm they were safe while Smith stayed on the phone.

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