Families of missing people become targets of ransom call scams, BCSO says

Scammers obtain information through social media, missing person flyers, sheriff says

SAN ANTONIO – Families of missing people who may be desperate for any information that might lead to their loved ones are becoming targets of ransom call scams, according to the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office.

The families often put out flyers and post on social media. The posts usually describe the missing person and a way to contact the family, leaving them vulnerable to scammers.

Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar says his office has reports of families of missing people being targeted. He says crooks will take advantage of people’s pain, describe what the missing person looks like, and contact the families directly using the information found on flyers or social media posts.

Mariesol Beneavidez’s nephew was reported missing in January and found in April. She said she was a victim of these types of calls during that time.

“You’re feeding off my pain to try and gain something for yourself. What kind of person does that’s disturbing and disgusting?” she said.

Often, the scammers threaten to do harm or even return the person for a price but actually have nothing to do with the person’s disappearance, BCSO said.

“Obviously, to a family that’s very confused, it’s a chaotic time. Obviously, they’re desperate to get their loved one. They may be tempted to pay something like that,” Salazar said. “What we would recommend to anybody is don’t give in to the temptation. Chances are it’s going to be a fraudulent deal, and your best bet is to contact law enforcement.”

Unfortunately, it’s hard to catch these types of criminals because they can be based anywhere, according to Salazar. Anyone who believes they’ve been a victim of these types of calls or messages should save all documentation so law enforcement can review it.

About the Authors:

John Paul Barajas is a reporter at KSAT 12. Previously, he worked at KRGV 5 in the Rio Grande Valley. He has a degree from the University of Houston. In his free time, he likes to get a workout in, spend time on the water and check out good eats and drinks.

Adam Barraza is a photojournalist at KSAT 12 and an El Paso native. He interned at KVIA, the local ABC affiliate, while still in high school. He then moved to San Antonio and, after earning a degree from San Antonio College and the University of the Incarnate Word, started working in news. He’s also a diehard Dodgers fan and an avid sneakerhead.