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Virtual kidnapping scams cause concern across the country

MONROE, CT (WFSB) — Police in some towns throughout the country are alerting residents about a telephone kidnapping scam that has reportedly been making the rounds.

Monroe police posted to Facebook on Friday, saying they had received several calls about telephone scams happening in the area.

“Virtual kidnapping takes on many forms, it is always an extortion scheme – one that tricks victims into paying a ransom to free a loved one they believe is being threatened with violence or death,” the department posted on its Facebook page.

Police said the calls are random and could come at any point, day or night. The caller will usually say they’ve kidnapped a relative and wants money wired over in exchange for their release. Through social media, they can even identify the relative by name, making the call even more credible.

A week before Monroe police alerted residents, police in Seymour said they had been investigating reports of the same types of phone calls making the rounds to some residents.

They wrote, “Please do not provide the callers with any information and DO NOT wire any ransom demands.”

Police in Ansonia also reported this happening in town.

“A lot of time, they give you very little information and let your imagination go to the worst place possible,” said Ansonia Police Lt. Patrick Lynch.

That’s what happened one recent night in Ansonia, where a family got a random call that a relative was kidnapped.

Police say it just happened to be a perfect storm of coincidences.

“The person had left the house, the family tried to call him, he wasn’t answering the phone, so they believed the incident to be real,” Lynch said.

Police say the family started scrambling, trying to get cash together. Before any payments were made, police were able to reassure them by locating their loved one safe and sound.

“To them, it seemed real. What they do is prey on people and they say something about a relative. They prey on people and their insecurities,” Lynch said.

Anyone who receives a phone call like this should hang up and contact your loved one to make sure they are safe.

Police also said, “do not allow the caller to create panic and do not send money to someone you do not know.”

If you do receive a phone call like this, contact your local police department.