Scammers try to get ransom from Va. man in 'virtual kidnapping'

Scammers try to get ransom from Va. man in 'virtual kidnapping.' (ABC7)

You get a call from a stranger saying your child has been kidnapped. What do you do? It just happened to a Loudoun County family. Turns out it's a scam called "virtual kidnapping." SEVEN ON YOUR SIDE Investigative Reporter Scott Taylor spoke to the Family.

Arran Collins was at work surrounded by reminders of his 10-year-old daughter, Victoria, when his cell phone rang.

Collins says "It was kind of hard to understand her. I said 'Victoria what's going on.' 'Daddy! Help. They got me in a van' and then a man gets on the phone."

The guy made it crystal clear what would happen if Dad didn't hand over $50,000.

Collins adds "The man says if you want to see Victoria again... do what we say or we are going to kill her."

So the $50,000 question is where was his daughter during the entire phone call? Victoria was safe and sound in class at Banneker Elementary.

Dad alerted his co-workers and he was able to call the school and discover he was in the middle of a scam he never heard of.

Collins says "At this point I got the principal on the line and he confirmed Victoria was at school and he had heard about this and it was a scam."

It's called virtual kidnapping and it's on the rise. Suspects get a hold of a block of cell phone numbers and do random calls until they get a bite. The Loudoun County Sheriff's Office says this scam has been attempted several times over the past six months in the County.

Collins adds "They are absolute scum. It's a horrible thing that they are doing."

So you don’t fall victim to a virtual kidnapping scam here are some tips:

  • Incoming calls come from an outside area code
  • Calls do not come from the kidnapped victim’s phone
  • Callers go to great lengths to keep you on the phone
  • Callers prevent you from calling or locating the “kidnapped” victim
  • Ransom money is only accepted via wire transfer service

If you receive a call from someone who demands payment of a ransom for a kidnapped victim, the following should be considered:

  • Try to slow the situation down. Request to speak to the victim directly. Ask, “How do I know my loved one is okay?”
  • If they don’t let you speak to the victim, ask them to describe the victim or describe the vehicle they drive, if applicable.
  • Listen carefully to the voice of the kidnapped victim if they speak.
  • Attempt to call, text, or contact the victim via social media. Request that the victim call back from his or her cell phone.
  • While staying on the line with alleged kidnappers, try to call the alleged kidnap victim from another phone.
  • To buy time, repeat the caller’s request and tell them you are writing down the demand, or tell the caller you need time to get things moving.
  • Don’t directly challenge or argue with the caller. Keep your voice low and steady.
  • Request the kidnapped victim call back from his/her cell phone.

Please report any information about a virtual kidnapping to the FBI at 212-384-1000.

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