Fake kidnappers ‘spoofed’ their cellphone, then scammed their partner for a $10K ‘ransom’

Kidnappers were able to fake a Richmond resident's phone number, then convince their partner they'd been kidnapped. File / Global News

Richmond RCMP say a resident was scammed out of $10,000 after being convinced their partner had been kidnapped.

The scam bears a resemblance to so-called “virtual kidnapping” scams that have prompted police warnings in recent months, with a new twist.

Police say officers got a call on Monday about an apparent abduction from the 5000-block of Dover Crescent.

The scam victim got a phone call that appeared to be from their partner’s cellphone. Police said the scammers were able to use “spoofing” technology to make the phone number appear legitimate.

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The scam victim took the threat seriously, and was allegedly coerced by the fraudsters to transfer $10,000 through a Bitcoin ATM before they realized they were being manipulated.

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Police said the scam victim’s partner was later located unharmed and unaware of the alleged abduction.

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“Criminals are trending towards more sophisticated techniques in their activities and how they are able to gather personal information from their victims,” RCMP Cpl. Dennis Hwang said in a media release.

“This includes sophisticated phishing exploits via computer to conventional methods such posing as a company employee by phone to obtain cellphone numbers or other personal data.”

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Last month police in Victoria warned that scammers have been increasingly doing deep research on their targets, collecting identifying data such as names, addresses and information about loved ones.

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That information is then used during phone scams in order to manipulate their victims, police said.

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Scammers pretending to be the Canada Revenue Agency have also grown increasingly aggressive in recent months, as have scammers misrepresenting themselves as police officers.

RCMP are reminding the public that anyone who contacts them by phone and pressures them — for whatever reason — to make payments, particularly via unusual methods, should raise immediate red flags.

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Scammers appear to prefer iTunes and Steam (a video game platform) gift cards and Bitcoin as payment methods, he said.

Hwang added that anyone who phones up asking for personal information should be treated with skepticism.

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The Richmond RCMP’s General Investigation Section continues to pursue the bogus kidnapping scam.

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