You get a phone call from an unknown number, and the person at the other end says a family member has been kidnapped. If you want them to live, you must send money to an account in Mexico or the family member will be killed.
While it may sound like something from a movie, two recent instances in California have led local police to alert residents of the rich coastal town of Laguna Beach to pay attention to what is called virtual kidnapping.
According to Orange County Register the two cases happened within 48 hours of each other and believed to be affiliated.
"[The incidents] happens in surrounding cities and everyone seems to be connected to the same group," says Laguna Beach Police Sgt. Jim Cota. Everyone wants money transferred to an account in Mexico and they target victims outside the city to withdraw money. It's as if they had been there before. They send them all to the Costa Mesa. "
According to Cota, the first event happened on March 7 when the victim received a phone call that his daughter had been kidnapped and would be killed if he did not pay $ 5,000.
" The suspect ordered the victim to stay on the phone with him during throughout this event. The victim was afraid of his daughter and after a brief hearing by a female scream on the phone stating that she had been kidnapped, the victim went to his bank and retired to $ 5,000, "Cota said.
Afterwards, the victim told him that he The victim received a call from his daughter when he completed the final transaction, she was safe in Laguna Beach and had not been kidnapped.The victim contacted the police afterwards but could not stop the transfer of money.
The second kidnapping call One day later, this one aimed at a woman whose daughter attends college in Chicago, parents were told to send the money to the same account in Mexico.
"When the mother withdrew the money, she called the police department. The police stopped her on her way out of the city and could stop the transfer of money, "said Cota. The mother came in contact with the daughter who was safe in Chicago.
According to a report from the FBI of 201
According to the report, most conversations from 2013 to 2015 originated from Mexican prisons and targeted Spanish speakers largely in Los Angeles and Houston, Texas.
"In 2015, conversations began to come in English and something else happened : The criminals no longer targeted specific people, such as doctors or just Spanish speakers. Now the different cities chose and called hundreds of numbers until innocent people fell for the system, said FBI Los Angeles Special Agent Erik Arbuthnot.
For the most part, victims are asked to pay small amounts of money that can be connected, the report says, but in two cases in Houston, the victims were instructed to make money for bigger money.
According to Register the two cases represent an increase in virtual kidnapping cases in Orange County over the past few months. Other cases have been reported in the San Clemente area.
With the two cases so close together, the Laguna Beach Police Department issues warnings to local schools so they can warn parents.
FBI spokesman Laura Einmiller told Register that wild areas are common targets for these types of systems.
The FBI recommends the following if you think you are targeting virtual kidnapping:  • In most cases, the best way to hang the phone is.
• If you engage the caller, do not call your beloved name.
• Try to slow down the situation. Request to talk directly to your family member. Question: "How do I know my beloved is okay?"
• Ask questions only the alleged kidnapping victim would know, such as the name of a pet. Avoid sharing information about yourself or your family.
• Listen carefully to the alleged victim's voice if they speak.
• Try to contact the alleged victim via phone, text or social media and request that they call back from their cell phone.
• To buy time, repeat the caller's inquiry and tell them that you are writing down the demand or telling the caller you need time to get things moving.
• Do not agree to pay a remedies, via management or personally. Leaving money in person can be dangerous.
The FBI examines hundreds of virtual kidnapping cases per year. The cases are prosecuted as acts of violence.