Uptick in Virtual Kidnapping Extortion Calls Across Santa Barbara

There’s been a recent uptick in the number of what authorities are calling “virtual kidnapping” extortion calls, during which anonymous callers ​— ​often from Mexico-based phones ​— ​target the 805 area code in hopes of tricking their victims into believing that a family member ​— ​often a daughter ​— ​has been kidnapped. “Most [of these] schemes use various techniques to instill a sense of fear, panic, and urgency in an effort to rush the victim into making a very hasty decision [to deliver ransom payment via wire transfer],” according to the Sheriff’s Office. The FBI, which in July made its first arrest in connection to these fake-kidnapping scams, recommends “that if you get a call like this, hang up, locate your family members, and call the police, in that order,” said Agent Erik Arbuthnot.

To submit a comment on this article, email or visit our Facebook page. To submit information to a reporter, email

Be succinct, constructive, and relevant to the story. Leaving a comment means you agree to our Discussion Guidelines. We like civilized discourse. We don't like spam, lying, profanity, harassment or personal attacks.

comments powered by Disqus
event calendar sponsored by:

Mandatory Evacuation Called for Fire Zones

Heavy rains expected Tuesday-Thursday; debris flows feared.

Cannabis Farmer Gets over $1 Million Insurance Payout

Thomas Fire ash destroys crop; analysis finds asbestos, lead, arsenic, and magnesium.

Next Debris Flow Could Take Different, Unknown Path

"I've never seen this degree of hazard," says Cal Fire scientist.

Biggest Storm Since 1/9 Approaching Santa Barbara

The storm system brings increased threat of flash floods and debris flows.

Jack Johnson Tours Montecito Disaster Area Ahead of Benefit Concert

Jack and Kim Johnson met with Bucket Brigade leaders to see the destruction firsthand.