The Vanderburgh County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a report of telephone extortion. The victim was tricked into believing a family member had been kidnapped and being held for ransom.

The caller claimed to have kidnapped the victim’s daughter and demanded money in exchange for her safe release. The victim transferred money to the caller via MoneyGram and Western Union. Once the victim realized the kidnapping was a hoax, the victim was only able to cancel one of the wire transfers.

The method by which the victim was selected as a target is still being investigated. In the past, criminal groups have been known to use social media to learn about their victims and their families. The fake kidnappers will typically attempt to create a sense of urgency and danger in order to coerce victims into complying with their demands.

To avoid becoming a victim of this type of extortion scheme, consider the following:

  • Does the call appear to be from the kidnapped victim’s phone?
  • Is the caller going to great lengths to keep you on the line?
  • Does the caller tell you not to call or attempt to locate your loved one?

Don’t directly challenge or argue with the caller. Keep your voice calm and use the following tactics to expose the call as fake:

  • Request to speak to the victim directly.
  • If the caller does not let you speak to the victim, ask the caller to describe the victim’s appearance and the location they were taken from.
  • Attempt to call or text the victim. Request that the victim call you back from his or her cell phone.

If you receive a hoax call, please call 911 and report the crime immediately.