American Families Go On High Alert And Some Panic As A Billion-Dollar Cyber Kidnapping Scam Hits America
The billion-dollar cyber kidnapping scam has hit America by storm. The scam created by Mexican prisoners and perfected by Chinese gangs has taken America by storm. There is one foolproof way to protect yourself and your family.
Here is how the scam works:
One day, out of the blue, you receive a call. Perhaps, you think you recognize the number. So, you answer it.
The menacing voice loudly says:
The a voice that sounds like your daughter comes on the line and says:
Your heart stops. It’s your child’s voice.
The family goes into panic mode. The ransom demand could be to wire tens of thousands of dollars to an untraceable bank account in Hong Kong. The alleged kidnappers could demand something old school like dropping a bag of cash on a street corner. The family believing the kidnapping is real pays the ransom.
However, when the dust settles and a bemused daughter on vacation in Mexico would check their phone and learn of the chaos. The truth of the scam would sink in. She was never in any danger. This was one big scam.
How The Billion-Dollar Cyber Kidnapping Scam Started
Cyber kidnapping first emerged in the 1990s. Basically, it’s a modern take on an old con. It’s an extortion scheme that involves criminals convincing unsuspecting people that their family members are in danger.
Unfortunately, the widespread availability of artificial intelligence and mobile phones has made it easier for anyone to do it. Technology has morphed the scam into something significantly more sophisticated and terrifying. It has also turned it into something more lucrative. It has turned it into a billion dollars illegal enterprise.
The scam started in Mexico in the 1990s. Mexican inmates and ex-convicts started the scam. Convicts would bribe prison guards to give them cellphones. Then the crooks would open the phonebook and start calling numbers at random. It soon became a cottage industry as criminals started to copy it.
By the mid-2000s, the con had spread. It soon spread to crime syndicates out of China and the Philippines.
Australian police noticed a surge in cyber kidnappings in 2020. They say at least eleven ransoms were paid totaling $2.6 million. Most were Chinese foreign exchange students. They were targeted and told by a Mandarin-speaking fraudster. The fraudster claimed to be from the Chinese government or police and told family members that there was a problem with their child’s visa or passport.
Asian fraudsters found Chinese people in foreign countries to be easy marks. They play on the Chinese person’s belief that they were being watched by the state and their fear of the overarching power of the authorities. The marks were convinced to fake ransom photos that were sent to relatives.
The Scam Becomes Easier To Do Thanks To Technology
On the other end of the line was a voice that sounded like her daughter, “Mom, these bad men have me. Help me, help me.”
DeStefano also said she had no doubt it was her child,
Yet, it wasn’t DeStefano’s Briana. The scammers demanded $1 million. Fortunately, DeStefano’s husband managed to confirm Briana was fine before they paid up.
The voice Jennifer DeStefano heard was likely generated by artificial intelligence. Fraudsters employ deepfake technology to make their scam realistic. They can also even use short snippets of videos posted on social media to create realistic imitations.
Virtual kidnappers have also hacked into phone contact lists or trawled their victim’s social media to spin wildly convincing lies.
How To Avoid Being A Victim
Be diligent about incoming calls from outside your loved one’s area code. The calls generally come from Puerto Rico with area codes (787), (939) and (856). In some cases, they come from Caribbean islands that use the North American telephone system.
Also, listen for tell-tale signs of strange audio like repetition of phrases and unusual pauses. That may suggest that the chillingly familiar voice one hears is a pre-recorded fake.
Creating a safe word that only family members know is a foolproof safeguard. Ask the apparent victim to recite the word or phrase. If they can’t, it’s a con.
Above all else, do not buy into the hysteria.
Scammers always operate on a theory of panic. So, keep calm.