BEVERLY HILLS—The Beverly Hills Police Department is warning residents of an ongoing nationwide scam involving “Virtual Kidnapping” extortion attempts. Lt. Elisabeth Albanese, Public Information Officer for the BHPD indicated in a press release to Canyon News that during the incidents, an unidentified person calls and claims to have kidnapped a family member.

In an effort to increase legitimacy, another person pretending to be the kidnap victim is on the phone asking for help, to give an impression that they have actually been kidnapped. The alleged kidnapper takes over the phone call and demands ransom money by way of a wire transfer or via cash.

The “kidnapper” will attempt to keep the caller on the phone and not speak to the alleged kidnap victim.  The BHPD has noted in these cases it is later discovered that there has been no kidnapping and the alleged kidnap victim is completely unaware of the situation.

To avoid becoming a victim, the police department is warning residents to be aware of the following indicators that the incoming call is a scam:

-The incoming call is from an international or blocked phone number.

-The caller does not know the name of the person they have kidnapped (“I kidnapped your daughter.”)

-The caller claims to have ties to organized crime.

-The caller will not let you speak with the alleged kidnap victim.

-The caller demands that you stay on the phone and will not allow you to make other calls.

-The caller will not allow you to call him/her back.

-The caller demands ransom money by way of wire transfer to an international account, or provides you instructions to deliver cash to a specific location.

-The caller does not request a specific dollar amount and instead asks you what you have available (“How much do you have, right now?”).

-The caller seems willing to accept a small amount as ransom.

If you receive such a call, the following course of action should be considered:

1. Hang up the phone.

2. Contact family members.

3. Notify law enforcement.

Anyone who suspects they have been a victim of a Virtual Kidnapping scam, is asked to contact your local law enforcement agency. The Beverly Hills Police Department investigates all reports received of this nature.