ESPAÑOLA, N.M. (KRQE) – New Mexico State Police are warning northern New Mexico residents of phone scams that claim family members are being held for ransom. NMSP reports that these virtual kidnapping scams prey on victims who are told their family member has been kidnapped and then a ransom is demanded.
Scammers tell victims that they need to make money transfers from locations such as Food King, WalMart and El Paisano which are all located in Española. Authorities say in these virtual kidnappings no one is actually kidnapped and using deception, scammers coerce their victims into paying a quick ransom before the scheme falls apart.
The scammers often will pose as members of law enforcement and will tell the victim to stay on speaker phone and to not hang up. Police say the calls typically originate in Mexico.
NMSP tells residents if you receive a call, contact the alleged victim via phone, text, or social media and ask that they call back from their cell phone. The community is urged not to disclose your loved one’s name or provide any identifying information.
If you believe a real kidnapping is taking place or believe a ransom demand is a scheme, you’re asked to contact NMSP or call 911. Police warn that the success of any virtual kidnapping scheme is fear and speed and to try to slow the situation down.
Ask callers to speak to your family member directly and ask questions such as: How do I know my loved one is okay? You can also ask questions that only the alleged kidnap victim would know such as the name of a pet.
Do not share information about yourself or family and don’t agree to meet the caller in person as this could result in a dangerous situation. NMSP say to try to attempt to record the calls on someone else’s phone.
Additionally, keep a log of the times of the calls, the ransom amounts, and take down as much information as possible to help authorities in investigations if it turns out to be a real kidnapping situation. For additional information on virtual kidnappings visit the FBI’s website.