Calif. Police Warn of 'Virtual Kidnaps'

Callers claimed girls had been kidnapped
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 18, 2019 4:47 AM CDT
Police say that in one case, they were able to stop the money transfer.   (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

(Newser) – Police in a seaside California city have alerted local schools to two "virtual kidnap" cases in 24 hours. Laguna Beach police say victims received phone calls claiming their daughters had been kidnapped and would be harmed unless money was wired to a Mexican bank account, the Orange County Register reports. There were no abductions in either case, according to police. Authorities in the community about 57 miles south of Los Angeles say they have contacted the Laguna Beach Unified School District as well as local private schools to warn parents of the scam. Authorities say residents made separate reports March 7 and 8 that they were the victims of the fake kidnapping threats, the AP reports.

"All of them want money transferred to an account in Mexico, and they are directing victims outside of the city to withdraw money," Laguna Police Sgt. Jim Cota says. Police say a man wired $5,000 before learning his daughter was safe. "At about 6:30pm, as the victim was completing the last transaction, he received a call from his daughter who was fine in Laguna Beach," Cota says. In the second case on March 8, the victim was told her daughter had been taken while attending college in Chicago. "Once the mother pulled out the money, she called the police department," Cota says. "Police officers stopped her on her way out of town and were able to stop the transfer of money." Both cases have been referred to the FBI, police say.

(Read more kidnapping stories.)

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