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Virtual Kidnappings


Mollie Halpern: Criminals are using a new telemarketing tactic to target Americans traveling south of the border.

I’m Mollie Halpern, and this is FBI, This Week. Agents are investigating cases in which Americans staying in hotels in Mexico are becoming victims of virtual kidnapping extortion schemes. Callers impersonate themselves as cartel members or corrupt police officers who claim they’ve kidnapped a loved one and demand a ransom. Supervisory Special Agent Tony Robleto says many of the perpetrators are Mexican prisoners who call using smuggled phones….

Tony Robleto: They’re controlling you the whole time by keeping you on the phone, making you think that they’re watching you and that if you don’t follow the instructions, harm will come to you.

Halpern: These schemes can cost victims tens of thousands of dollars and last as long as three days.

To avoid becoming a victim, look for the warning signs. These calls are made from an outside area code and the ransom money is only accepted via wire transfer service.

Robleto: The third indicator, which is probably the best one, is that they will never call from the victim’s phone. They’re not with your loved one, and the “victim” is not kidnapped.

Halpern: The FBI is working with Mexican law enforcement to combat these schemes.


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