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'Virtual Kidnappers' Demand Real Ransom in U.S.

La Voz, Posted: Sep 26, 2008

PHOENIX, Ariz. -- Kidnapping has been a problem in Latin America for a long time, and in the last two years has become a problem in Phoenix, Ariz., too. But now, La Voz reports, a new kind of crime is being exported from Mexico: "virtual kidanppings." In the most common scenario, scammers get a list of undocumented immigrants from a coyote, and call the U.S. families of the immigrants, posing as coyotes and demanding ransom. The immigrants are often crossing the border or on their way to a safe house when the fake kidnappers call their families. Some "virtual kidnappers" find out that someone is traveling from the United States to a remote area of Mexico that has no wireless service. They call the traveler's family, pretending they have kidnapped the traveler and are threatening to harm or kill him. The Phoenix ICE office receives one call per week about a person who has been kidnapped by coyotes, La Voz reports. Special Agent Armando Garcia told La Voz that a quarter of these kidnappings are false.

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