A stranger calls out of the blue, claiming to have kidnapped your daughter or granddaughter. He plays a recording of what sounds like her voice, and she’s screaming hysterically.
“She saw something she shouldn’t have seen,” the man says, demanding that you get cash and wire it to him. He threatens to hurt her if you don’t comply.
This is a terrifying new twist on the so-called granny or grandparent scam, which fleeces well-meaning people trying to help grandchildren who are hoodwinked into believing they need to be bailed out of jail, according to Boise police. There’s been a rash of incidents in the past two months.
Boise Police Lt. Stan Niccolls said Tuesday that there have been a half dozen of these types of kidnapping scams in the past two months, including two that occurred on the same day last week.
Police urge the public to always report any incident involving an alleged kidnapping and demand for money, even if you know or suspect it may be a hoax. If caught, those perpetrating these crimes could face grand theft by deception charges, said Boise police spokesman Ryan Larrondo.
The police department put out a warning to the public in late July after two men in a two-day period reported that they’d been targeted. Investigators determined that one of the calls originated outside the U.S.
Boise police have not yet identified suspects in these local cases because tracing the perpetrators is difficult when they’re able to disguise or hide where they’re calling from.
To prevent becoming a target, Niccolls recommends that the public lock down their Facebook pages so strangers can’t see family members’ names and photos, or know if you’re out of town on vacation.
“I would always wait until I’m back from vacation,” he said of posting photos.
They provided advice from the FBI on what victims should do if contacted by someone claiming to have kidnapped their child:
• Resist the pressure to act quickly.
• Try to contact your family to determine whether or not the call is legitimate.
• Never wire money based on a request made over the phone or in an e-mail, especially overseas. Wiring money is like giving cash — once you send it, you can’t get it back.