Police department warns of phone scam

FRONT ROYAL – “Fake kidnapping” phone calls have increased in recent days, according to a Front Royal Police Department news release.

In this scam, citizens receive phone calls from an unknown person who claims to have kidnapped a family member, the release states. The caller says the relative will be harmed if money is not immediately wired from Wal-Mart.

Capt. Crystal Cline said these calls may appear to be from local area codes, but they could be from anywhere in the world. They are usually disconnected upon calling back, and there are numerous cellphone applications that allow callers to disguise numbers. In some cases, the number is identical to the relative’s.

“They are very creative,” she said.

While this kidnapping scam has occurred in town before, Cline said “this week we’ve been hit pretty hard.” She estimated the total to be about 25, but “luckily” no one transferred the requested money.

“When people get these calls it gets real quickly and it upsets them greatly,” she said.

“Virtual kidnapping fraud” has been around for decades, but has notably increased in recent years, according to the FBI’s website. It states signs of fraud kidnapping phone calls include callers insisting you remain on the line; calls do not come from the supposed victim’s phone; you are prevented from talking to the supposed victim; demands for money to be paid via wire transfer to Mexico.

The website states the best course of action is usually to hang up the phone, and attempt to contact the alleged victim. Other tips include not saying the victim’s name, not agreeing to pay a ransom, and listening carefully to the caller’s voice.

While Cline said the kidnapping calls have been prevalent this week, other scams involve callers posing as IRS agents or the town electric department. The IRS, however, only conducts business in certified mail. She said to be wary of callers requesting wire transfers be made at Walmart or anything involving gift cards.

“There are so many scams out there, it’s just sad,” she said.

She encouraged anyone who has received the kidnapping calls to notify the department at 540-635-2111 or via its Facebook page.