BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Imagine getting a call from your parent’s number, but it’s not their voice you hear. Instead, it’s a stranger who says he’ll kill your parent if you don’t pay him money now.
But we’re finding out this could all be a scam.
Law enforcement agencies are calling it “virtual kidnapping.”
The scammers haven’t actually kidnapped your loved one, but it’s all terrifying either way.
April H. Collins said she got a call from a scammer Wednesday.
“That was really scary. And I’m not even-- It’s hard to scare me,” Collins said. “I pick up the phone and I answer it, and there’s a guy who says, ‘April, I’m with your mom. She needs help.’”
That’s when Collins said she got confused.
She asked the man who he was.
Then the man started making his demands.
“Don’t hang up. Don’t call. Don’t try to call anybody. If you do, I’m going to blow her brains out. I’m going to kill people. That was the thing he was saying,” said Collins.
She said she recently read about scams called “virtual kidnapping” where callers pretend to have your loved one and demand ransom.
“So all of that was going through my head and I’m thinking, ‘This just doesn’t sound right,'” Collins said.
So she started asking even more questions, trying to slow the situation down.
She knew these scammers depend on speed and fear. And she was right - he eventually hung up.
“He was frustrated,” Collins said. “Like really mad. Cursing me out. But when he hung up, I called my mom immediately and she was shocked. She was like, ‘What?!’”
But Collins said others may not be as quick thinking as she was, and she doesn’t want anyone to fall for it and pay these scammers.
Collins reported this to the FBI. The FBI says, in most cases, the best thing to do is hang up the phone. Then call or text your loved one.
If you do engage with the caller, ask the caller if you could speak with your loved one directly or ask questions only your loved one would know.
Never agree to pay a ransom by wire or by person.