FBI: Fake Cartel Kidnappings, Extortion Calls on Rise in Texas

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MCALLEN, Texas — Authorities in along the Texas border have begun to see an increase in the number of fake cartel kidnappings and extortion calls being made to innocent residents in the area. The calls are part of a scheme to get individuals to pay ransom moneys while in reality there has been no kidnapping.

One of the particular areas of concern is the area known as the Rio Grande Valley, information provided to Breitbart Texas by the FBI revealed. In a “virtual kidnapping”, a victim is called by a person who claims to have a relative or a loved one under their control and demands a ransom. In reality, no one has been kidnapped but the schemers will have a person screaming in the background or use some other pressure tactic in order to force the victim into sending them money. Typically the callers are not even in the area and demand that the money be sent via wire transfer.

In the past, law enforcement agencies would receive an average of eight virtual kidnappings in a month, the information from the FBI revealed. That figure has now jumped to more than 20 in June. In the recent rash of calls, the virtual kidnappers are demanding about $50,000 in order to secure the release of the victim; the victim who was never taken in the first place.

“Callers, sometimes representing themselves as members of a drug cartel or corrupt law enforcement, will typically provide the victim with specific instructions to ensure the safe return of the allegedly kidnapped individual,” an FBI statement revealed.

During the call, the virtual kidnapper will work to keep the victim on the line as to keep them from calling or checking on their person the kidnappers claim to have taken. The calls are usually made from an out of area phone and not from the alleged victim’s phone. 

The FBI advises anyone who receives one of those calls to take the following steps:

  • Stay calm.
  • Try to slow the situation down.
  • Avoid sharing information about you or your family during the call.
  • Request to speak to the victim directly. Ask, “How do I know my loved one is okay?”
  • Request the kidnapped victim call back from his/her cell phone.
  • Listen carefully to the voice of the kidnapped victim if they speak, and ask questions only they would know.
  • If they don’t let you speak to the victim, ask them to describe the victim or describe the vehicle they drive, if applicable.
  • While staying on the line with alleged kidnappers, try to call the alleged kidnap victim from another phone.
  • Attempt to text, or contact the victim via social media.
  • Attempt to physically locate the victim.
  • To buy time, repeat the caller’s request and tell them you are writing down the demand, or tell the caller you need time to get things moving.
  • Don’t directly challenge or argue with the caller. Keep your voice low and steady.

Ildefonso Ortiz is an award winning journalist with Breitbart Texas you can follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.