GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Authorities are warning people about a kidnapping ransom scam that ramps up the intensity and fear to try to steal your money.
The Kent County Sheriff’s Department said that while the scam has been around for years, deputies are now seeing an increase in local reports. Sgt. Joy Matthews said that on one day recently, dispatch received five or six calls reporting the scam.
Scammers will call victims from a number that appears to be from a family member’s phone using spoofing technology, often targeting those who are middle-aged or older, the office warned in a release.
“When the victim answers the phone, they think it’s a family member,” Matthews said.
The suspect or scammer will then say that they have their family member kidnapped and they have to pay a ransom in order for that family member to be released safely. The victim can often hear screaming in the background. The scammer will know the family member’s name, information likely gathered through social media.
If you receive a call like this, the sheriff’s office recommends asking questions. You should also demand to speak with the relative.
“We always encourage our residents to just slow down, calm down and really think about the call that they’re receiving before they send any money to someone who they don’t know. Start questioning the legitimacy of the call,” Matthews said.
Authorities say you should try to keep the person on the line while someone else calls police.
“We are able to work with federal agencies to get that wire transfer stopped but it has to be done quite quickly,” Matthews said.
The scam is happening nationwide and the use of real names and screaming has become more common.
“Although no one is physically kidnapped in this scam, they are often incredibly traumatic for everyone involved,” the sheriff’s office said in the release.
You should also avoid sharing personal information with the caller.
If you are not sure if it’s a scam or a kidnapping, you should try contacting your family member directly or contact the police.