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Crime Trackers: FBI warns public about virtual kidnappings

TUCSON – The FBI says scammers are adding a new twist to virtual kidnappings.

That twist is when people receive calls from an individual claiming they have your loved one and demand money for their return.

Steven Patterson is the assistant special agent in charge of the Tucson office. He said the scammers are now convincing victims to go into Mexico to pay the money. He said it is only happening in southern Arizona.

In a joint news release by the FBI, there was a recent case where extortionists called hotel rooms near the border and told guests that the hotel is surrounded by armed enforcers. The scammers then convinced the victims to video-call them and take a screenshot.

The criminals will then send the photo to the victim’s family, convince them that their loved-one is kidnapped and ask them to pay a ransom.

However, virtual kidnapping scams are occurring all over the country.

Between 2013 and 2015, investigators tracked virtual kidnapping calls from Mexico. Almost all of the schemes originated from within Mexican prisons.

The FBI is working with local law enforcement agencies as well as their counterparts in Mexico to find who these scammers are.

The FBI said they are going public with this to alert the public of what is going on and help prevent them from falling victim to this scam.

Below are some tips the FBI has put together.

Lupita Murillo

Lupita Murillo is an investigative reporter. She is part of the Digging Deeper team that uncovers important issues focusing on crime that affects the community.

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