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FBI warns of virtual kidnapping scam

Ken Kleinlein

Ken Klein­lein

By Ken Kleinlein

Crime Scene

ENGLEWOOD, Fla. – In 2014 I wrote a col­umn on the Hit Man Con Game. Below is an excerpt from that column.

“I have been paid to ter­mi­nate you by some­one you believe to be a friend. Do not con­tact the police because if you do I will be pushed to do what I have been paid to do.

“I need $8,000 and when you pay I will not com­plete the con­tract on you. Pay­ment details will be pro­vided after I hear back from you. Once pay­ment is made I will pro­vide you with a copy of the tape record­ing between me and the one who con­tracted me along with pic­tures of you that were given to me. You do not have much time so get back to me immediately.”

A com­bined vari­a­tion of the Hit Man and Grand Ma cons has sur­faced and the FBI has labeled it “Vir­tual Kidnapping.”

Accord­ing to the FBI, in a new wrin­kle to an old crime, hun­dreds of New York­ers and those in other states includ­ing Florida have been tricked into pay­ing ran­soms by wire trans­fer to callers who falsely claim to have kid­napped fam­ily members.

In these “vir­tual kid­nap­pings,” scam­mers make calls say­ing a loved one has been snatched and demands the imme­di­ate trans­fer of money to have them released.

Calls may fea­ture scream­ing in the back­ground to con­vince a vic­tim of the authen­tic­ity of an abduction.

There have been hun­dreds of the hoax kid­nap­pings in the last 18 months and peo­ple have actu­ally wired money to them.

Many of the scam­mers appear to be His­panic men, and vic­tims have been instructed to send ran­soms of up to $1,900.

Some of the vic­tims are His­panic, who may not be here legally and not com­fort­able reach­ing out to law enforcement.

Per­pe­tra­tors have resorted to an array of fic­ti­tious sce­nar­ios to coerce vic­tims, many of whom were told the loved one was being held to set­tle a debt, recover com­pen­sa­tion, or because of a car accident.

The scheme has been around for years, accord­ing to the FBI, but its grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity has pushed the agency to raise awareness.

The FBI says you should do the fol­low­ing if you receive a call from some­one who claims to have kid­napped a relative:

Ask to speak to the hostage.

Ask the kid­nap­per to describe the hostage.

Lis­ten to the voice of the alleged kid­nap victim.

Try to get in touch with the “hostage” through social media, phone calls, or text mes­sages to check whether he or she is OK.

Make some more time for your­self by repeat­ing the  kid­nap­pers’ request back to them, or claim to be writ­ing down what they’re saying.

Avoid argu­ing with the kidnapper.

Ask for the “hostage” to call you from his or her own phone.

Should any­one receive this or a sim­i­lar con­tact, report the inci­dent to law enforce­ment and the FBI Sara­sota field office, 1800 Sec­ond St., Suite 930 East, Sara­sota, FL 34236; Phone: (941) 955‑3325; Fax: (941) 316‑6442

Good Police Work:

Sara­sota County Sheriff’s deputies responded to Gulf Coast Jew­elry and Pawn in the 1800 block of Tami­ami Trail, where the front win­dow had been smashed. Three sus­pects fled from the busi­ness car­ry­ing rifles and hand guns and were even­tu­ally arrested.

Deputies recov­ered eight more weapons near a home in Venice.

Charges included Armed Bur­glary and Prin­ci­pal to Armed Bur­glary. Fin­ger­prints linked one of the per­pe­tra­tors to another bur­glary on Gulf Club Lane in Venice.

We should all be very relieved that these guns were quickly and safely recov­ered before some­thing tragic hap­pened,” said Sher­iff Tom Knight.”

Take care, be care­ful, and I’ll see you at the next Crime Scene.

God bless and pro­tect our Mil­i­tary, Law Enforce­ment Offi­cers, and Fire Fighters.

Ken Klein­lein is a for­mer detec­tive with the NYPD spe­cial frauds squad coor­di­nat­ing with local, state, and fed­eral law enforce­ment along with accred­ited secu­rity agen­cies, on mat­ters of crime pre­ven­tion and pub­lic information.

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