Laguna Beach police Monday warned the public about an extortion plot involving thieves faking a kidnapping of the victims’ children.
The most recent incidents were March 7 and 8 in Laguna Beach, according to Laguna Beach police Sgt. Jim Cota.
“We had two in 2018 as well,” he said. “Two in a year is too many.”
In one of the most recent cases a Laguna Beach father “shelled out $5,000,” and in another case a woman was about to wire $6,000 to the thieves, but police stopped it in time, Cota said.
“Both cases are being referred to the FBI,” Cota said.
The crooks apparently gather as much information about a victim as possible, probably through social media, and then call in a low, guttural voice, Cota said.
“They call you from a blocked number and say, `Hi, we have your son or daughter… and if you do not get to the bank and wire me… money they’re going to kill your son or daughter,”’ Cota said.
In the background of the call there’s the sound of a boy or girl screaming, Cota said.
“These people are under the assumption their loved on is being kidnapped and held for ransom,” Cota said.
The victims are instructed to stay on the phone as they are directed to drive to a business in Costa Mesa where they can wire the funds, Cota said.
Police advised anyone who receives such a call to ask the caller for specific information such as the middle name of the child. A victim could also put the phone on speaker while texting their child to see if they are safe, Cota said.
Another option is to keep the caller on the phone as the victim drives to the police station, Cota said.
“Put them on the defensive,” Cota said.
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