Kidnapping scam hits Portola

A kidnapping scam convinced at least two Portola parents Tuesday, April 3, that their children could be in danger.

The father of one girl was heading to the bank to collect ransom money when he learned his daughter was at home and doing well.

Another parent learned that ransom was wanted for information about a child. That parent called the Portola substation to talk to a deputy. The parent also learned that the child was fine.

The Plumas County Sheriff’s Office is now warning all Plumas County residents of the scam. A caller pretends that a relative of the individual receiving the call has been kidnapped, and a ransom is demanded, according to Investigations Sgt. Steve Peay.

The callers are then directed to go to a business where money can be sent electronically to an offsite location.

“Everyone should be aware of ‘virtual kidnapping scam phone calls,’” Peay said. These are tactics criminals have been using for at least two decades.

Callers usually tell the victim (in the Portola cases, both parents) that a family member will be violently harmed or killed, even though the alleged victim is in not in harm’s way, Peay said.

Through deception and threats, victims are enticed to pay a quick ransom for what they believe will be a safe release.

The sheriff’s office is issuing the following warning to avoid becoming a victim. First, scammers know they only have speed and fear on which to rely during these calls before their scam unravels, Peay said.

Their tactics include:

– The scam callers go to great lengths to keep someone on the phone, insisting the individual remain on the line.

– Calls do not come from the supposed victim’s phone.

– Callers try to prevent the individual from contacting the supposed kidnapped victim.

– Calls include demands for ransom money to be paid via wire transfer and the amount of money requested for ransoms may change.

 

What to do

Peay asks residents to consider the following when they receive a call alleging someone has been kidnapped:

– In most cases, the best course of action is to hang up the phone.

– If individuals do engage the caller in conversation, don’t call out the loved one’s name.

– Try to slow the situation down. Ask to speak to the family member directly. Ask, “How do I know my loved one is okay?”

– Ask questions only the alleged kidnap victim would know, such as the name of a pet.

– Avoid sharing information about yourself or your family.

– Listen carefully to the voice of the alleged victim if he or she speaks.

– Attempt to contact the alleged victim via phone, text or social media, and request that they call back from his or her cell phone.

– To buy time, repeat the caller’s request and tell them you are writing down the demand or tell the caller you need time to get things moving.

– And finally, don’t agree to pay a ransom by wire or in person. Delivering money in person can be dangerous.

Individuals are asked to contact the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office or call 911 to report an incident related to this scam.

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