INDIANA (WFIE) - We’re learning there have been several cases in Indiana recently. Authorities are calling it a virtual phone kidnapping hoax.
The way their operating is now more advanced, and the phone calls are becoming more violent.
The hook? The perpetrators find a way to call from your loved one’s exact phone number.
It happened last week to a Carmel woman and involved her sister in Warrick County.
The victims have decided to remain anonymous for our report.
From the beginning, the woman in Carmel thought it sounded like a ransom call.
“It was a man’s voice, and he had a kind of a violent voice to him," she explained. "He said, ‘I have your sister. You need to go out to your car right now, or things are going to get bad,’ then click. That’s exactly what he said.”
The supposed kidnapper called her multiple times from her sister’s phone number, who lives near Newburgh.
“I’m a teacher, and I can’t answer the phone whenever I want to," the woman in Carmel explained to us during a phone interview. I got the phone call three times. My friends said, you need to answer that...thinking something might be wrong."
The school administrators in Carmel then called 911 dispatch.
“They had us go on lockdown because it seemed like they wanted me to come out to my car," she said.
Carmel authorities alerted the Warrick County Sheriff’s Office to locate the woman’s sister near the greater Evansville area.
She was found safe.
“I got paged at the facility where I was doing yoga."
We caught up with the Warrick County woman caught up in the hoax for an anonymous interview.
“I panicked. I ran to the front (of the office), and it was my husband on the phone,” she said. "He called me five times trying to reach me. My parents were involved...everyone was trying to call to look for me.”
Before the hoax call happened, the sisters tell us they both got a call from an unrecognizable Oregon number.
“If this person knew my sister, or knew my husband, or knew things about me that they shouldn’t be able to easily find out. They were obviously looking into who I was. It’s disturbing."
How it works
According to the FBI, virtual kidnapping is a coercion scheme to extort ransom payments from victims who are tricked into believing that a loved one has been kidnapped or is in danger.
The FBI is familiar with the crime, which has grown in popularity in the south and southwestern parts of the United States.
It happens when the perpetrator is able to steal someone’s contact list. They use phone numbers you recognize and frequently communicate with through something called “spoofing.”
The ability of scammers to “spoof" someone else’s phone number makes the scheme more realistic and dangerous. Spoofing happens when a caller falsifies the information transmitted to your caller ID, disguising their identity and making it appear the call is coming from someone else. Virtual kidnappers use stolen contact lists and troll the internet to find personal contact information about you and your family through social media and online search tools.
Another case has been reported in central Indiana this week.