The virtual kidnapping is a form of extortion in which a cybercriminal requests the payment of a ransom to the loved ones of a supposed victim. Basically, without having actually kidnapped the person, the kidnapper uses technological resources, such as voice synthesis and imitation or AI-generated deepfakes, to deceive family and friends.
We explain how a virtual kidnapper operates so that you know how to act in the face of this dangerous practice.
At first glance, it may seem unlikely that a virtual kidnapping will prosper. Especially, considering that, with a simple call to the supposed kidnap victim, the extorted person can easily discover the scam.
However, malefactors specialized in this type of practices know perfectly well how to exploit your fears and make the most of the deception tactics. In fact, those who engage in virtual hijacking usually follow very well-structured patterns. Therefore, in this article we will identify the stages of a virtual kidnapping and how to detect if you have been the target of one.
Stages of a virtual kidnapping
– Identification of the potential target: people who have difficulty relating to technology and who are financially able to pay a ransom are the preferred victims of virtual kidnappers.
– Determining the potential subject: once the extortionist identifies his target, his next step will be to determine which of the person’s family members is the right one to pose as the kidnapped person. In this case, an easy target are those who frequently share all kinds of information on social networks.
– Information gathering: the virtual hijacker’s next plan will be to collect all relevant data about the subject. This will include obtaining contact information, educational and professional background, habits, future plans and even voice samples.
– Contact at the right time: the cybercriminal will keep a strict control of all the movements of the subject to be used as a decoy and will wait for the right moment to contact. That is, when the supposed victim does not have access to telecommunications and at the same time is physically far away from the family member who will be the target of the extortion. This can be, for example, during a trip.
– Destruction of evidence: finally, in case of success, the scammer will possibly proceed to launder the ransom money and destroy the device he used to call his victims, as well as all kinds of data.
How to know if you have been a victim of a virtual kidnapping scam.
– The kidnapper asks you to pay the ransom in cryptocurrencies or through any other virtual transfer method.
– It may happen that the criminal asks you to make several transfers of small amounts to different accounts.
– The scammer never puts the person he has supposedly kidnapped on the phone.
– The ransom caller never contacts from the victim’s phone.
– A virtual kidnapping extortionist will not be able to answer simple questions about the victim, such as the colors and type of clothes he/she is wearing.
What to do if you are a victim of a virtual kidnapping.
This can be a difficult situation, but when faced with a criminal act like this, the best thing to do is to go to the telematic crime unit of the Police or Guardia Civil.
In any case, filing a report with the authorities and letting the professionals act against the cybercriminals will be better than taking the law into your own hands, something that can be very dangerous.