The FBI is out with a new warning about an increase in fake kidnapping calls. That's when criminals lie about taking a loved one and then demand money.
The FBI is launching an awareness campaign to fight the growing scam.
The kidnapping calls went to a father in the Dallas area.
"He told me if I dropped this call, he was gonna kill my son". Don Ferguson said.
Kidnappers also called Valerie Sobel in Los Angeles. They told her they’d taken her daughter.
"The man says, 'We have cut off her finger and if you want the rest of her in a body bag, it's your choice’." Valerie Sobel said.
To get her back, he told Sobel, she’d have to send them money and if she hung up they’d kill her daughter.
She stayed on the line for over two hours and sent almost $4,000 to Mexico as directed. The supposed kidnappers then hung up.
However, her daughter hadn’t been kidnapped. She was fine.
The FBI says these fake kidnapping calls are on the rise.
"It's a get rich quick scheme where they can extort victims and have them wire money into Mexico." Tim Ferguson with the FBI said.
Tim Ferguson is an FBI Assistant section chief. He said those calls usually come from criminals in Mexican prison
He said the prisoners used smuggled cell phones and dialed random numbers in the U.S. The prisoners’ friends or family would pick up the cash sent by victims to money transfer locations.
"I don't necessarily think that it's just in the prison systems, But I would say the large majority of the ones that we do have do come from the prison systems because the individuals there don't have anything but time." Ferguson said.
So how do you know if the call is fake?
The FBI says out-of-state area codes are one tipoff. The request to wire smaller amounts of money from multiple locations, down to Mexico.
The FBI is focused on one group of criminals but agents say they need the public's help to find more.
To report a call you can go to the FBI's website at FBI.GOV