Phone scam preys on parents' fear that children have been abducted

Police are warning of a phone scam that draws on parents’ fears that their children have been abducted.

Fairfax County Police say that several parents claimed to have received calls that begin with the sounds of a child crying or a child saying that they have been kidnapped.

According to the reports, a stranger then takes over the phone call and demands a ransom for the child they claimed to have taken. The scammer then tells the victim to wire money to a specific location.

Police say the scammers try to keep the parent on the phone until the money has been sent.

Authorities say that these types of scammers are designed to catch parents off guard and to prey on their emotions. Police say the first thing a parent should do if they receive such a call is to contact their child’s school or chaperone to verify they are ok.

Here are some ways police say you can protect yourself:

How to protect yourself:

  • If someone threatens a lawsuit or arrest if you do not pay, call the police.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Scammers play on your emotions to victimize you: Fear, worry, love, excitement, joy, embarrassment and they induce great stress. Do not be pressured by anyone to make a decision.
  • Do not respond to unsolicited telephone offers (or e-mails).
  • If someone wants to sell you something you didn’t plan to buy, say no and hang up.
  • Never give out personal information over the phone; never “confirm” personal info, it is a trick to get it from you.
  • Never pay/give money to someone promising you will get even more money back (or receive a free gift).
  • Scammers have evolved with technology. They create fake websites, companies and e-mails so when you diligently research who they are, they appear real.
  • Scammers also spoof their phone numbers so your caller ID will show a real law enforcement or government agency or company phone number. This way, when you research it, you find the number actually does belong to an agency, and drop your guard.
  • Report anything suspicious to the police and/or the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
  • Join the National Do Not Call Registry and consider not listing your number in the phone book.
  • Periodically research common scams online. Many sites such as the FTC, IRS and Federal Communications Commission contain information to help protect you.