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Collier County woman targeted in virtual kidnapping scam

Posted at 8:23 PM, May 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-30 06:49:10-04

COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. -- We’ve told you about stories like this before, scammers calling you to get their hands on your money. One SWFL woman found herself on the end of a terrifying scam - that claimed her loved ones had been kidnapped.

Kelly, who didn't want to give her last name says she received a call from who she thought was her husband, but once she picked up the phone, someone on the other line answered instead and said they had Kelly's husband and daughter, and demanded money.

"The voice came on clear and strong and said, 'Kelly go to a quiet place, I need to talk to you in regards to something about your family'," Kelly said. "Immediately froze I about fell to my knees."

A frightening call she says she’ll never forget, she says she was at work at the time and explains the person on the other end of the line heard her talking to her coworkers.

"He heard me say, 'I told you, I told you not to talk to anyone - I will tell you right now, I will blow your families heads off if you talk to one more person'," Kelly added.

Luckily the person on the other end of the line hung up, and Kelly immediately called her family, they were fine. Kelly was almost a victim of what the FBI calls virtual kidnapping.

Kelly said she wouldn't have answered if she had known it was someone else, but according to Fortalice Cybersecurity, it turns out the person who called Kelly, spoofed her cell phone to where they possibly hacked into her phone and made the call seem like it was from her husband.

Fortalice Cybersecurity experts say virtual kidnapping is a multi-trillion dollar business and even the FBI says cases of virtual kidnapping are rising but exact numbers are hard to pin down because most people don’t report it — but Kelly did.

"They’re patient because they’re good at what they do they make money at what they do," said Mike Holland, with Fortalice.

Mike Holland, with Fortalice, says there are ways to keep this from happening. The first tip, lock down your social media pages, Holland says they’re constantly learning more about people through social sites.

"You can have security settings such that your friends there are only people that you allow to see your information, not everyone,"

Secondly, set up code words with your family members, just in case you’re in this situation.

"You need to do is slow down be calm and know that it’s likely a scam but you’ve got to buy yourself some time," Holland said.

Fortalice experts say it’s almost impossible to get your money back if you do happen to fall for these scams, but it’s important to stay aware and protect yourself.