Detectives across Almeria are investigating an alarming rise in the number of virtual kidnappings. Residents are advised to beware of scam artists who pretend that family members are in dire trouble and need money transferred abroad.
The fraudsters target a particular person, usually elderly citizens, and find out the names and addresses of their close relatives. They then call their target and shout the names of loved ones down the phone, mentioning Mexico or other places, and urge them to send money.
Their family member is said to be in trouble with border police or some other obstacle and in need of a wire transfer to help them get home. By the time the victim realises none of it was true, the money has vanished into a foreign bank account.
Provincial police in Almeria are currently investigating two cases where local residents were scammed out of €1,500 each. They transferred the money through Western Union and MoneyGram to help allegedly distressed loved ones.
It is a popular scam and Almeria police are trying to raise awareness among the local community to prevent anyone else falling victim to it. As well as the financial loss, the targets have also been psychologically impacted as they fear for their loved ones’ safety.
Elderly residents in particular have been marked out as potential victims. Police are also advising people to beef up their online security. The criminals typically gain personal information on family members simply by viewing social media accounts such as Facebook, where personal data is often visible to all and sundry.
Detectives emphasise the scammers are extremely convincing and may provide a startling level of seemingly private information. They advise anyone receiving such calls to contact police immediately and before transferring any funds.