The FBI in San Antonio is warning of what are called 'virtual kidnapping,' which recently have begun targeting physicians in South Texas, Newsradio 1200 WOAI reports.
Special Agent Michelle Lee says a victim gets a phone call and are told that a relative, generally a son or daughter, has been kidnapped and demanding ransom.
The criminal frequently tries to add 'legitimacy' to the kidnapping claim by having a young man or a young woman frantically screaming in the background when the call is made.
"The callers sometimes represent themselves as members of a drug cartel or corrupt law enforcement," Lee said. "They will typically provide the victim with specific instructions to ensure the safe 'return' of the allegedly kidnapped individual, and that frequently involves demands of a ransom payment."
Agents say the criminal will try several tricks to 'instill a sense of fear, panic, and urgency in an effort to rush the victim into making a hasty decision.'
In reality, nobody has been kidnapped at all, and the criminal is also calling from half way around the world, calling victims at random, frequently simply picking numbers out of the phone book.
Lee says the number of 'virtual kidnapping' extortion schemes appears to be increasing, and a recent trend indicates the criminals are targeting dentists, general practitioners, and medical specialists across South Texas, with victims in McAllen, Laredo, Brownsville and Del Rio.