Burleson PD warns about 'virtual kidnapping scam'

Burleson police sent out a scam warning this week after they received an increase in reports about a virtual kidnapping scam.

The scam happens when a caller claims to have kidnapped a child or a relative and demands money in return for their life.

Police say the number one thing to remember is to not give out any personal information, no matter how alarming the call may seem.

This call could come from any number — overseas or local. Police say they’re banking on getting you to panic and do exactly what they say.

Arlington mother Gina Hunter got the puzzling phone call last month from a muffled voice she didn’t recognize. She recalls the caller said her son was in trouble.

However, Hunter doesn’t have a son. She has two teen girls. When she got the call, she says both of them were at home.

“I can say that if my girls were not home at the time, I would have really alarmed me because I would have been like, ‘Is that my child?’” she said.

Hunter was one of the thousands of people nationwide targeted by a virtual kidnapping scam where a caller pretends to have kidnapped a relative or a child and demands a ransom. She and nine other people in Arlington have reported similar calls.

“What they’re trying to do is keep you on the phone. They’re trying to tell you you can’t call anybody,” explained Burleson Police Sgt. Jae Berg. “They can keep you on the phone. They don’t expect you to have another phone available.”

Since August, Burleson police say they’ve received around a dozen calls related to the scam.

“Most recently, we’ve actually had calls into our citizens in the city here, as well as even a couple officers,” Berg said.

Because of the uptick in reports, Burleson PD posted a public warning this week on social media.

Berg says some people have reported hearing screams in the background or received threats of violence. He says none of the people who have filed reports to his department have given money to the callers. But Berg wants to remind parents to take precaution.

“There may be a code word that you can set up with your child,” he said. “One that only your child and you as the parent knows.”

It’s advice that Hunter has now established with her kids.

“If somebody has my child, then only my child knows what to tell me to tell me that she’s really in trouble,” she said.

Hunter’s call came from an 817 number, but Sgt. Berg says that doesn’t mean it’s local. A caller can disguise the number using a phone app or a burner phone.

Police in both Arlington and Burleson are asking the public to file a report if you get one of these calls.