FBI warns of hoax kidnapping scam targeting 724 area codes – CBS Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The Pittsburgh FBI is alerting residents to a hoax kidnapping scam targeting Western Pennsylvanians whose family members travel near the southwest border.

When you answer a phone call, you would probably never expect to hear a stranger telling you a terrifying story about the safety of your loved one.

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“They were claiming they had family members who had been kidnapped in Mexico and they were demanding a ransom with the threat of killing or harming the family member,” FBI Supervisory Special Agent Timothy said. Wolford.

He said they learned last week that 450 of those pranks were passed on by someone in Mexico to people with the 724 area code. The scammers are apparently looking for families to target on social media.

“They were scanning social media and looking for people who were traveling in the southwestern region of the country, near the border, and then they were doing research to find out who some of those family members were, their contact details,” Wolford said. .

Wolford told KDKA that criminals usually ask for a few thousand dollars.

He said if you receive a call like this, you should stay calm and resist the pressure to act quickly and get as much information as possible, including the caller’s phone number. Then you should hang up and call the family member they believe has been kidnapped before reporting the call to the local police or FBI.

“The first thing you want to do is try to contact the person they claim to have. A large percentage of them can be resolved simply by contacting the person and confirming that they are in a safe location. The second thing I would do would be to contact local law enforcement before sending money, as there are often things we can do to prove whether or not it is a hoax before sending money,” Wolford said.

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He said victims were not required to stay online with the scammer.

“I don’t think they need to be on the phone with this individual. Most of them will call back and keep calling back until they think they can get money from the person. Once this call is received and the threat has been made, if you can hang up the phone, then go ahead and try to contact that person to make sure they are okay, then contact local law enforcement, those are the steps I suggest,” he said.

The FBI Pittsburgh reminds residents never to transfer money because of a request made by phone or email.

They warn that these hoax kidnapping scammers are convincing, which can be traumatic for victims.

“They play on people’s emotions and their fears. Every time you get a call from someone saying they’re going to kill a family member, it’s going to shake you up a bit, but recognize that it’s becoming more and more common, so don’t panic and assume that the call is true,” Wolford said.

They are also asking the public to alert family members to this scam, especially older relatives.

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Anyone who has received one of these calls, even if they have not given money to the scammers, is encouraged to file a complaint here or by calling 1-800-CALL-FBI.

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