Espanola, NM – The New Mexico State Police has become aware of recent cases in the northern New Mexico area of a phone scam known as virtual kidnapping in which a victim is told their family member has been kidnapped and a ransom is demanded. Scammers are instructing victims to make money transfers from locations such as Food King, Wal-Mart, and El Paisano all located in Espanola.
Unlike traditional abductions, virtual kidnappers have not actually kidnapped anyone. Instead, through deceptions and threats, they coerce victims to pay a quick ransom before the scheme falls apart. Virtual Kidnappers often pose as law enforcement and instruct the victim to keep them on speaker phone and not hang up the phone.
If you receive a call, which usually originates in Mexico, attempt to contact the alleged victim via phone, text, or social media, and request that they call back from their cell phone. Do not disclose your loved one’s name or provide any identifying information. If you suspect a real kidnapping is taking place or you believe a ransom demand is a scheme, immediately contact the New Mexico State Police or call 911.
Try to slow the situation down. The success of any type of virtual kidnapping scheme depends on speed and fear. Criminals know they only have a short time to exact a ransom before the victims unravel the scam or authorities become involved.
Request to speak to your family member directly. Ask: “How do I know my loved one is OK?” Ask questions only the alleged kidnap victim would know, such as the name of a pet. Avoid sharing information about yourself or your family. Do not agree to meet the caller in person. Such a meeting can be dangerous.
Attempt to record the calls by using someone else’s phone. Keep a log of the times of the calls, the amounts, and take down as much information as possible to assist authorities in investigations if it turns out to be a real kidnapping situation.
For more information about this type of scam visit the FBI Virtual Kidnapping website at: https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/virtual-kidnapping
Officer Ray Wilson
New Mexico State Police
Public Information Officer
NM CORONAVIRUS HOTLINE: 1-855-600-3453
NEW MEXICO: CORONAVIRUS WEBSITE