Fake kidnapping calls strike fear in Camden

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Police say there have been an epidemic of what they're calling "virtual kidnappings" in Camden, New Jersey. (WPVI)

Police say there have been an epidemic of what they're calling "virtual kidnappings" in Camden, New Jersey.

The fake kidnapping starts with a frantic call or text from an unfamiliar voice saying someone you know has been kidnapped and is in danger unless you pay a ransom.

That's exactly what happened to one woman Action News spoke with on Friday night.

"He just kept threatening me and threatening my daughter of what he would do to her if I didn't follow his instructions," said the victim.

Still worried for her safety, the victim asked that we conceal her identity.

She says the caller told her he had kidnapped her daughter and wanted $1,000 for her safe return.

"He convinced me to follow his instructions and do exactly what he said or he would blow my daughter's brains away," said the victim.

She was instructed to stay on the phone as she went to a nearby Western Union to wire him the money.

The woman wired the man on the phone $800, which was all she says she had in her bank account.

The man hung up. She then made contact with her daughter and realized she had been scammed.

"He just really did a good job on me. And I felt stupid, but I did what I thought was right to protect my daughter," said the victim.

Police say there have been at least 17 such cases in Camden since Jan. 24.

The FBI calls them "virtual kidnappings" in that they seem real.

The fake kidnappers use social media to learn about their victims, where they live, places they commonly visit, friends and family.

The FBI says it has seen an increase in these types of calls across the country.

Often the scammers are operating overseas using phony accounts and can be difficult to trace.

And they are also very practiced at the art of intimidation.

"And his voice is horrible, it's scary and he did a good job convincing me of that because I love my kids," said the victim.

"They should not be sending out, paying out any money to anyone. Again, just jot down the number, immediately terminate the call and inform the police department," said Camden County Police Lt. Julio Rios.

Police say you should also know that sometimes the scammers use blocked or private numbers.

So just be alert if you get one of these, try to slow down the conversation, ask for more time, try to call or text the person that was supposedly kidnapped and most importantly call police.

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newsnew jersey newsscamkidnappingthreatCamden
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