A Terrifying Scam Is Targeting Parents – What You Need To Know

There is no greater fear for parents than knowing our children are in danger and not being right beside them to help.

Unfortunately, criminals have learned how to prey upon this paralyzing fear for their own financial gain.

And their latest scheme will send chills up your spine.

With the rise of social media and other online networking, criminals have found a way to access our information and use it for their benefit.

But people have gotten smarter over the years about what they put online as far as transactions that can disclose our financial information.

So now, criminals are looking for new ways to break down our walls and take what they want.

The latest scam is a horrifying one.  Criminals are using our information to pretend that our children have been kidnapped so that they can demand ransom.

This would be the most traumatic experience of a lifetime for any parent, and most of us would not hesitate to do exactly what we were told in this situation.

The FBI has reported that several families across the country have experienced similar bone-chilling circumstances.

A stranger calls from a blocked number.  Often a child (or someone pretending to be a child) screams or cries in the background.

The stranger calls the parent by name, and states that they have kidnapped their child – calling them by name as well.

They demand immediate payment for the child’s safe return, often telling the parent to get in the car, go to the bank, and immediately send them money (often by wire).

While this may seem far-fetched like something out of a movie, when you think your child is in danger, your body’s adrenaline and fight-or-flight reactions kick in.

The FBI and local law enforcement are spreading the word to parents about what we can do if this horrible experience happens to us, how to react appropriately, and how to prevent it in the first place.

First and foremost, if you receive this type of call and your child is not with you, call their school, their daycare, or wherever you last left them and verify their presence and safety.

If your child is out with friends, a teen who drives, etc., call them immediately on their cell phone. 

If your child is safe at home with you – the best scenario possible – do not use your child’s name or give any information to the caller. 

Police say the best thing to do is simply hang up, but that the call should be reported even if you have little information to give them.

If you cannot verify your child’s whereabouts, demand that they be put on the phone before you do anything else so that you can verify their voice. 

In the case of these scams, it is almost always someone pretending to be your child, and 911 should be called immediately.

Even if you have verified your child’s safety, call the police to report the threat.  They will likely send an officer to their school or daycare to check on them – but, of course, most of us would run as fast as we could to check on them ourselves.

It’s easier said than done, but law enforcement recommends staying calm and taking in any information you can before you hang up the phone.  Was it a man or woman, did you hear any background noises, anything that may help them track down the suspect.

And never give a credit card number or other financial information over the phone.

So, if it is a scam and we know our kids are safe, then how do these criminals know our names, our children’s names, and other personal information?

You guessed it – social media.

We put up lots of pictures, call our kids by name, and give out all sorts of information about our favorite spots, our schedules, and even the name of our child’s school.

We all do this, and that is what these criminals are counting on. 

They have all the information they need to prey on our greatest fear and use it so we will do what they say.

Local police and the FBI issue warnings all the time – watch what you post online – and talk to your kids so they do the same.

Never disclose your address or phone number on social media. Virtually anyone can access your posts and profile, so keep them generic.

Never say you are away from home (wait until you get back to post those vacation pictures), don’t talk about finances, and especially, don’t post anything about your child’s school, the times of their practices, or anything else that can be used to personalize a frightening call like this.

The bottom line?  Be very cautious and only post generic information online and never hesitate to report anything suspicious.

These horrifying calls are nearly always a scam being run from somewhere very far away from where you reside, but it is important to keep these tips in mind to keep everyone as safe as possible.

Have you heard of this “kidnapping” scam targeting vulnerable parents?  Leave us your comments.

 

 

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