Uptick in Virtual Kidnapping Extortion Calls Across Santa Barbara

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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.

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