Potomac Montgomery County Public Schools and Montgomery College sent letters recently warning parents and guardians about virtual kidnapping, a scam the FBI believes originates in Mexico.
Virtual kidnapping is, “an extortion phone scam,” Walt Whitman High School principal Alan Goodwin wrote on the school’s Yahoo group. “…The caller claiming that they have the person’s child and intend to do the child harm unless ransom is paid.”
Parents are encouraged to contact their child directly after receiving one of these calls to confirm his or her safety.
Gboyinde Onijala, spokesperson for MCPS said they sent a sample letter to all school principals allowing them to decide whether or not to send it to their community.
“There were about 10 or so parents that schools had heard from [about the scam] so we provided the letter,” Onijala said.
Marcus Romano, from the office of communications at Montgomery College, said the school’s chief of safety and security, Shawn Harrison, suggested they send out the information.
“It hasn’t hit us here but [Harrison] puts out things we should look out for,” Romano said.
To avoid becoming a victim of virtual kidnapping, the FBI offers these indicators of a scam:
- Callers go to great lengths to keep you on the phone, insisting you remain on the line
- Calls do not come from the victim’s phone
- Callers try to prevent you from contacting the “kidnapped” victim
- You receive multiple successive phone calls
- Incoming calls are made from an outside area code
- Demands for ransom money to be paid via wire transfer, not in person; ransom demands may drop quickly
Montgomery County Police Department makes these suggestions:
- Do not wire money
- Contact your child’s school
- Contact police via 911 or non-emergency number: 301-279-8000
More information can be found on the FBI website. See www.fbi.gov and search virtual kidnapping.