Abducted By Phone: Park City Police Investigate “Virtual Kidnapping” Incident

News

PARK CITY (ABC4 Utah News) – Imagine getting a phone call from someone who says they’re holding your child hostage and demanding a lot of money for their safe return.

It happened to a Park City family last Friday afternoon and while their son wasn’t really taken….his parents nearly were.

Park City Police Department captain Phil Kirk says it started with a phone call from an unfamiliar number.

“A family that recently moved here from Mexico about two weeks ago, they were contacted by these alleged kidnappers that they had a 15 year old son of theirs kidnapped in captivity,” Capt. Kirk told ABC4 Utah News.

The caller asked the frantic parents to wire money out of the country to secure his release but the boy was never really in danger.

Capt. Kirk calls it a “virtual kidnapping”.

“It’s not really an abduction. Not really a kidnapping but it’s somewhat of a deceptive kidnapping,” Capt. Kirk said. “It was really a traumatizing incident.”

Kirk says the virtual kidnappers gather information from potential victims on the Internet and use names and descriptions to make their claims sound legitimate.

“A lot of times they get this information from social media sites,” he said.

The caller typically warns relatives not to try to contact the supposed victim – or to call the authorities.

“Usually they target recent immigrants who are concerned about you know not having a good understanding of how the system works or the police work in the country they’re in, the United States for example or they’ve had some bad experiences with the police in their home country,” Capt. Kirk said. “So they’re not confident they can trust the police to help them work through this situation…People that are frightened and new to the country. They’re more susceptible to this type of crime.”

Capt. Kirk says if you get one of these calls, make a note of the number and then hang up and call the FBI or your local police department.

Parents can protect their children by limiting the information and pictures they share publicly on social media sites like Facebook.

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