Sheriff: Scam callers using fake kidnappings to extort money from Klamath County residents

The Klamath County Sheriff's Office says that these calls appear to be coming from a foreign country, possible Mexico.

Posted: Oct 18, 2019 5:34 PM
Updated: Oct 18, 2019 5:43 PM

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. — Scam callers pretending to be with law enforcement, the IRS, or the Social Security Administration are old news these days. According to the Klamath County Sheriff's Office (KCSO), some scammers are now targeting the area with something even more insidious — fake kidnappings.

The agency said that it has received multiple reports from people who received phone calls "indicating their child has been kidnapped and demanding a ransom."

"The reporting parties noted that they heard background screaming and other noise that they believed was recorded," KCSO said.

Calls seemed to be coming from a foreign number with a country code beginning +52. The calls may have originated in Mexico.

"Virtual kidnapping is an extortion scam where a caller pretends to have kidnapped a child or relative and demands payment," KCSO said. "The scammers will often make it appear they know significant details about their loved ones. They threaten extreme violence against the victim and imply that they have hacked your cell phone."

KCSO shared the following tips from the FBI on how to know if you've received a virtual kidnapping scam call:

  • Incoming calls from an outside area code, or foreign telephone number.
  • 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 do receive a virtual kidnapping phone call:

  • 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 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.

"The Klamath County Sheriff’s Office encourages you to share this information with friends and family members," the agency said.

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