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After recent cyber kidnapping stories have surfaced in the U.S., Attorney General Todd Rokita pushes for Hoosier families to beware of false ransom threats.  

Cyber kidnapping occurs when victims are tricked into paying a ransom fee to free a loved one who they believe has been threatened with violence or death. In reality, these cyber kidnappers have not kidnapped anyone, but they have instead obtained a photo of the alleged person alone in a secluded area.  

The worrisome photos are used to create the illusion that an individual has been kidnapped and needs immediate aid. After the family members or friends receive this information, they are asked to wire ransom money immediately.

According to the FBI, these cases are extremely difficult to investigate since the calls typically come from outside of the country. This crime often occurs when family members are unable to track the location of the person, contact them, or verify their safety.  

The Office of the Attorney General suggests the following tips to stay safe from these scams: 

  • Beware of incoming calls coming from an outside area code, sometimes from Puerto Rico with area codes (787), (939), and (856). 
  • Beware of calls that do not come from the alleged kidnapped victim’s phone. 
  • Beware of callers who go to great lengths to keep you on the phone. 
  • Beware of callers who prevent you from calling or locating the “kidnapped” victim. 
  • Beware of ransom money that is only accepted via wire transfer service.    

If you receive a phone 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 the callers don’t let you speak to the victim, ask them to describe the victim or describe the vehicle the victim drives, if applicable. 
  • Listen carefully to the voice of the kidnapped victim if he or she speaks. 
  • Attempt to call, text, or contact the alleged victim via social media. Request that the victim call back from his or her cell phone. 
  • While staying on the line with the 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 additional time to meet their demands. 
  • Don’t directly challenge or argue with the caller. Keep your voice low and steady. 
  • Request the alleged kidnapper to allow the victim to call you back from his or her cell phone. 
  • At the earliest opportunity, notify your local police department. 

For more information, or if you suspect or witness this type of crime, visit indianaconsumer.com or call (800) 382-5516.

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