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Wed May 15, 2019, 06:00 PM

Virtual kidnappings are rattling families across the US

"I have your son and I'm going to f*ck him up," a voice on the other side of the phone said.

For two hours one afternoon in early April, 61-year-old Joseph Baker and his wife Maggie drove around Charlotte, North Carolina, listening to every demand of their son Jake's supposed kidnapper.

"If you call the police, I will know and kill him," he threatened, according to the Bakers. "I have a scanner."

The caller ID on Joseph's smartphone display said the call was coming from his son's number. The couple had no reason not to believe the man on the other end of the line, who knew personal details about the family, including where they lived.
(The victims' names have been changed for their protection.)

They complied with his orders, purchasing two pre-paid debit bank cards worth $750 each, relaying the card numbers to the kidnapper and filming themselves flushing the evidence down the toilet.
When Joseph hung up, he called the police, who rushed to his son's house along with a team of medics. But they found Jake home, unharmed. It was all a scam.

"It was so real," Maggie Baker told CNN Business. "People will do anything to help a loved one. ... I keep thinking through things now. Is there anything I could have done to stop this?"

Stories like the Bakers' are increasingly common due to the influx of spoofing, a form of robo-calling that lets a perpetrator alter what number it appears they are calling from. They can then use that number, combined with personal information they find online, to fake a situation like a kidnapping.

More at https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/15/tech/virtual-kidnapping/index.html

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