FBI warns of spike in 'virtual kidnapping' cases in the Rio Grande Valley

Victims have been defrauded of large sums of money

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas – The FBI is warning of a recent spike in "virtual kidnapping" extortion calls in the Rio Grande Valley.

Law enforcement agencies have reported a rise in the number of victims who have fallen prey to the scam recently. The victims were defrauded of larges sums of money.

FBI officials believe there other victims who are too embarrassed or afraid to report the crime.

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The schemes usually involve someone receiving a phone call that a relative has been kidnapped. The callers usually say they are members of a drug cartel or corrupt law enforcement and demand a ransom payment for the safe return of the relative.

The scammers try to convince the victim to make a wire transfer immediately.

"Callers will often make their victims believe they are being watched and were personally targeted. In reality, many of these callers are outside of the United States, simply making hundreds of calls, possibly using phone directories or other phone lists," FBI officials said.

FBI officials say if you receive a call like that, stay calm and try to slow the situation down.

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Avoid sharing information about yourself or your family during the call, instead ask that the victim call you back from his/her cellphone.

While keeping on the line with the alleged kidnappers, try to get in touch with the alleged kidnapping victim by phone or social media.

Don't argue with the caller, keep your voice low and steady.

And finally, contact your local FBI office immediately.

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