Parents and grandparents in the Twin Cities are being targeted by scammers who say they have kidnapped one of their loved ones in order to extort money.
A warning issued by the Edina Police Department earlier this week alerts residents to the scam, in which con-artists use "a young voice" to trick victims into thinking they've kidnapped a son, daughter or grandchild.
The call comes from either an out-of-town number or from a number spoofed as being the same as the family member's cellphone, with the scammers usually saying they need to be wired money before they release the victim's loved one.
"The officers who have been on these calls heard the person on the other end of the phone and it is convincing," Edina PD Sgt. Kevin Rofidal said in a news release. "Some say it’s foolish, but this is choreographed and practiced. It works and I’m sure it doesn’t work sometimes. But to the scammer, they just move onto the next person until it works."
Edina is not the first department to warn about this scam in the Twin Cities. Bloomington PD has it listed as a "common scam" on its website, adding that it is not just limited to child relatives but adults as well.
Scammers are armed with just enough information to make you believe it's real, the department says.
If you can't contact your loved one, the police advise victims ask some basic questions of the caller to verify their story, such as asking what car their relative were driving when they were taken, or a personal question the caller is not likely to know the answer to.
"Try and get the phone number that called you and stay calm," it adds.
This type of scam is widespread. NBC Bay Area recently reported on an instance where it was successful, with the victim wiring money to Mexico after she was convinced her daughter had been kidnapped.