NRP: Be wise and protect your kids.

While this is a Monday post, it is not the usual NROP.

Just like I mentioned in my last post, the media outlets are flooded with single-topic pieces for prolonged periods of time, which means that there are fewer things for me to discuss here. We all live and breathe the Russia – Ukraine conflict. Today, I choose not to add to that pile.

When I am searching for ideas for my NROPs, I sometimes open Twitter to see what is trending. It almost never helps. However, this time around, I noticed something that was not absolute BS and decided that it was actually an important topic to write about – kidnapping. Since everyone who is not in the business of kidnapping will agree that it is a bad thing – I had to drop the ‘O’ and write a NRP. (Maybe I should use this as an opportunity to rename the series?!)

It seems like the topic of kidnapping has made its way into my life on a few different occasions recently – enough for me to think that I need to take note of it and share it with you, too.

A few days ago, I watched an episode of Chicago P.D. – a cop TV show – during which two police officers struggled with their (adopted) daughter being kidnapped. It perfectly depicted how we react differently when we are just doing our job vs. when we have skin in the game. One cop did not want to negotiate with terrorists (law enforcement protocol), while the other one threw the guidelines out the window because they did not want their daughter to die in case the kidnappers were not bluffing.

Blackmail is a riveting topic. Refuse to play into it, risk losing everything. Bite, and you might end up losing even more. These cases seem more of a gamble to me. I hope that none of us will ever have to be in a position to choose.

Someone I know announced a couple of weeks ago that their young, female family member was almost abducted. Apparently, the girl was on her way to meet up with someone she met through one of the social media platforms. Thankfully, an adult stepped in and things were handled.

When I was a kid – I was told not to take anything from strangers unless my parents said it was OK. It was drilled into me that talking to or going anywhere with a stranger I did not know was a big no-no. How is it that talking online is any different? Yes, there is no apparent, imminent danger, but that does not mean that there is not anything nefarious going on. While I am on here, sharing my life with strangers, I believe that a person needs to be mature enough and be aware of the potential consequences before they are allowed to converse with random people online. If you would not trust your kid with a stranger in the real world, you should not trust them online. Just because there is not an arm that can come out of a screen and snatch your kid, it does not mean that your child is safe.

Although virtual kidnapping has existed for a few years now, authorities are raising awareness as the number of these cases goes up in Illinois.

When I first heard the term ‘virtual kidnapping,’ I thought it was one of the ‘Your computer has been locked. Call us to fix it’ type of scams. I deduced that they were holding your computer ransom with the use of malware until you met their demands, but it is something more serious than that.

In a case of virtual kidnapping, you get a call from someone claiming to have kidnapped your child (or any other family member). Just like in a stereotypical kidnapping – you are told to contact no one and asked for money or else… Most likely, you will be kept on the phone until the money is wired/delivered so that you cannot call anyone for help. The FBI reports that, on average, thousands of dollars are paid before law enforcement is contacted.

Even though you might hear some screams for help during such a call, it is not real. While you are going through a horrifying experience, your kid is safely at school.

Many people do not answer calls from numbers they do not know, which often saves them quite a few encounters with scammers. However, it is not unheard of that scammers use a spoofing method to make it seem like it is your child calling you.

So, how do you protect yourself from a scam like that?

First of all, try to limit what you post on social media. If anyone can know where you are at all times, it is much easier to gather the information that will then be used against you/your family. Secondly, be sure to communicate with your loved ones – let them know about this scam and check in with them when you say you will. Another thing to discuss is a password that only a few people will know and that could be used to verify if you really are in danger.

I wanted to laugh when I read that you are supposed to call the ‘kidnapped’ person to make sure that they are OK while on the phone with the kidnappers. Most people have gotten rid of their landlines and only have cell phones. If you are the only person in the house, there are no other phones to use. I switched cell phone service providers recently and I encountered some issues right after my SIM card was replaced. While I expected the employee to call the carrier from the store phone, their first question was if I had another phone I could use to make that call. Yes, I carry seven different phones with me at all times so when strong winds come, I am heavier and hopefully will not be blown away…

You might not be able to call your loved ones while on such a call, but you can try to text them. Although, that can be tricky as not everyone (?) has their eyes and fingers glued to their phones 24/7.

If you receive a call from kidnappers, remain calm. Then, ask to speak to your kid, or whoever is supposedly held captive. Ask them questions only they would know answers to. However, do not ask to speak to them by name. Anything that can, WILL be used to manipulate you. Say, you hear screams: “Dad, help!” Your first reaction might be to ask: “Jay, are you hurt?” And then they know your son’s name is Jay. Some of those scammers are stationed abroad and just go through hundreds of numbers hoping that something will bite. They might even call people without kids, claiming that they have kidnapped their child.

If the call comes from an unknown number, ask the kidnappers to call back from your loved one’s phone to verify if the situation is real.

As you can see, there is no one script to this. You just have to stay vigilant to not fall for a virtual kidnapping scam.

P.S. How is this ‘virtual’ kidnapping? It is such a silly name. It would make more sense if you got a video with your kid photoshopped in. (I guess it is an opinion piece, after all.) Ha! And just as I said that I found the below – much more fitting of the ‘virtual kidnapping’ name.

“… extortionists are calling rooms at U.S. hotels near the border and telling guests that the hotel is surrounded by armed enforcers. The criminals convince the guests to leave their hotel and drive across the border to a Mexico-based hotel. The extortionist then convinces the victim to video-call them and take a screenshot. The criminals will then send the photo to the victim’s family, convince them that their loved-one is kidnapped, and coerce them to pay a ransom.”

FBI El Paso

Oh, boy. This could be a topic for a separate post. But, back to the topic at hand.

If you want to read about (virtual) abductions stories, check out an article on corruptionbycops.com.

  • What do you think?
  • What do you do to keep your kids safe online?
  • Have you heards of ‘virtual kidnapping’ before?

Stay golden,

SGK signature.png

***

Did you enjoy reading this post?
Hit LIKE.
Have some thoughts on the topic?
Share in the COMMENTS.
Do you regularly enjoy my blog?
Be sure to FOLLOW.
Are my posts getting lost in your busy Reader?
Try SUBSCRIBING.
Want to get to know me better?
Check me out on TWITTER @SamGoldieKirk.

35 thoughts on “NRP: Be wise and protect your kids.

Add yours

  1. This is a very important message for current parents or those that want to be parents!
    And partly the reason why I don’t want to be one.

    Internet was barely a thing when I was a teenager, but also, we had one computer which we had to share between the four of us. So I got very little screen time anyhow.
    But I remember that it was tempting to chat to people on site where I played chess.
    Real life was lonely, so I’d hide in the virtual one.
    I remember some mild bullying, talks about meeting up and even “being in love” with a person from another country.

    I recently listened to a podcast about the Dark Web. That is some very scary stuff and apparently not even that difficult to have access to.

    I know that internet could have made my life easier, but since I was insecure and fragile, also a lot worse.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. I’d not heard of this. I wish I could say I’m surprised, but as a species, there’s little we won’t do. When I was a parent, I was vigilant with the tech. I figured it was another way kids could get into things they shouldn’t and then not tell their parents about it.

    I had heard of the “lost overseas, need money to get home from the grandparents” scam. And I’m curious about the Mexico “kidnappings.”

    Scams and cons would make a great series but agreed that “virtual kidnapping” is a weak name 😁

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’d also never heard of virtual kidnapping, but it is terrifying. Thank you for the warning about that scam, and for the advice on ways to combat against it. It’s horrible these kinds of things happen in our world.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Unfortunately, I have a phone that’s also a business line, so I have to pick up calls. The first call that came in said that they were a police officer and that my granddaughter was in jail (it was a number in Mexico) and in the background a woman started screaming. I was like “I don’t have any kids” and hung up. The supposed police officer called me back and threatened me for hanging up on a police officer, and said they had my sister or niece or some such junk. I was like “Okay, first you said it was my granddaughter, now it’s my niece?” at which point they hung up. One thing, though, this scammer really had the intimidating cop act down. I can imagine how somebody not aware of this scam might panic, especially when the woman started screaming and crying in the background, and believe this was a real set of circumstances, and not a scammer.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. No way! You’ve had this happen to you?
      Good on you for not panicking and keeping cool when they switched the granddaughter to sister or such. Lucky that you do not have a granddaughter. The articles I read also spoke about how good these scammers are in being aggressive and communicating a sense of urgency. Definitely a psychological trick we don’t reflexively always recognize.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, even though I didn’t have the relative they were referencing, I still felt that heart grab when that woman was wailing in the background. I immediately reported the number to the requisite government website/online form, along with a report of the call.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I never answer calls from numbers I don’t know. They can leave a message.

    It’s painful to see what a world we live in. When I was a kid in the 70s and 80s… I would leave the house all day long, not tell anyone where I was going, and no one worried about it. Granted; I grew up (and indeed currently live) quite rurally out in the sticks. I would regularly walk the five miles to the ocean and spend all day there. I’d just as easily go into the river valley and be there. Alone. I never worried about people… it was bears and moose that I kept an eye out for.

    Now I have my kids and I tell them the way it used to be… I would never allow my kids to do what I did. I mean, to some extent. They have boundaries where I allow them to go alone and we regularly discuss both human and animal threats. But I check in with them regularly if I can’t hear/see them. I don’t allow my kids to have electronics of any kind, though my oldest knows how to make an emergency call in case something happened to me.

    This is one of the many, many, many reasons I live the way I do. I lived in the city until I had my first child. Then I refused to raise them in such an environment. I couldn’t imagine being constantly worried someone would steal or hurt my kid(s).

    As such, with my living arrangements, I’m not concerned that one of these “virtual kidnappings” would occur in my family…. But yikes! I just cannot fathom raising my kids like that. There are enough ‘natural’ worries out there to add even more! What a world.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have this fear of someone calling me from an unknown number, me letting it go to voicemail, and then something really bad happening… Probably my overactive imagination.

      It’s definitely a different world today than the one we grew up in and it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows like our parents hoped it would be for us.

      Indeed! There seems to never be enough ‘bad’ out there…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. There’s got to be a special place in hell for people who put others through this kind of emotional torture.
    Having information only you and your kids know is a great idea. Or a code word or phrase. One of my friends told me that if her parents called her and her siblings at home to check on them, and the kids said everything was “peachy keen,” the parents would know they were in trouble and to call the police.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. So important and so shocking that certain things are, to some of us, so obvious. But then, I am from the generation that had computers and the internet but mostly when we were older, late teens/twenties. I remember being on the internet and it was pretty well known that you didn’t give details.

    Just like, (women especially) were told not to record our own voicemail saying “I’m not home” and to use either a man’s voice or use the standard one that comes with phones. We were taught not to create email addresses that included our full name (often that would expose our sex) but also give people instantly knowledge of our names while just web-browsing. We were taught not to give out our ages, to stay off webcams and always use a “handle” and an “avatar” that was not you and didn’t resemble you.

    When social media rose up I was shocked at how fast people were giving away all their details, full name, location, age, schools they went to, where they worked, family, friends, pets. I think that was one of the reasons I took until 2016 before I really joined social media and even then didn’t become more active until 2018.

    How easy scammers, hackers and just bad people can take and use data is terrifying.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it definitely was a different world we lived in. Bad things still happened to good people back then, no matter what precautions you took, but bad guys rarely go for something that is more difficult to get to. So many people tell me that they are not afraid to share their details because they are a ‘nobody’ and no one would want to steal their identity/do anything bad to them. Somehow they don’t connect the dots when other ‘nobodies’ get hurt…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ahh yes, the “nobody”. It’s up there with “that only happens to ‘somebody else'” while forgetting everyone is somebody else, to somebody else.

        It’s like, why make things easy for scammers, hackers, identity-thieves etc

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Never heard of the term virtual kidnapping… But locally here we are getting cases of similar scams.
    The variation is that the call you receive would not say your child has been kidnapped but you are told your child or family member has been taken to the hospital and you need to transfer emergency funds for [insert some BS explanation about an uber or ambulance or that for treatment the hospital requires an upfront fee]

    Meanwhile your child is safely at school or at home… Hmmm following the weird naming protocol would that scam be called virtual hospitalization 🤔

    ~B

    Liked by 1 person

    1. See? I told you the name was ridiculous. Virtual hospitalization is a different thing.

      I’ve heard of those hospital up front charges, too. They definitely know how to pull on people’s heartstrings.

      Like

  9. I recently heard a news report of someone receiving a call like this that her mother was being held captive. She did end up sending $$ before she learned it wasn’t true. I generally don’t answer calls from numbers I don’t know – they can leave a message.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow. It’s one thing to read about it on the Internet and different to hear about it from people that have had this happen to them or someone they know.

      Was she able to recover the money? I’m sure she reported it.

      Like

  10. Scammers get innovative quite quickly and usually, their success comes from innocent people who just assume that everything they hear is true without thinking twice. Who can blame them? Hopefully, raising awareness and remaining aware will help reduce the number of successful scams!

    Liked by 1 person

Hmm? What did you say? I did not hear ya.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Website Built with WordPress.com.

Up ↑

The Literary Serenity Archives

Creative Writing Reflections, Stories about Stories, and Feel-Good Pieces

Ellie Thompson

Musings and Memoirs - True Tales of My Life ...

Roars and Echoes

Where the power of my thoughts comes from the craft of writing.

%d bloggers like this: