Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Virtual Kidnapping and Extortion in Argentina

True story - We were having dinner at my in-laws yesterday who had just returned from vacation in Brazil.
In the middle of dinner the phone rang.
My father-in-law (Osvaldo) picked up the phone, but the line was scratchy and almost inaudible.

Osvaldo: - Unable to hear properly thinks it might be his son who lives in Paraguay - "Is that you Pablo?"

Caller: - "Something bad has happened - Someone close to you"

Osvaldo: - "What?"

Caller: - "They're hurt bad"

Osvaldo: - "Who?"

Caller: - "It's uh.....Pablo - he's hurt"

Osvaldo: - "Adios - hincha pelotta" as he hangs up the phone, realising this is a scam.

We just experienced first hand a fairly common occurrence here - virtual extortion

Pablo was fine and enjoying his dinner in Paraguay.  Osvaldo had unwittingly revealed the name 'Pablo' and now the caller could use that to invent any story he liked.  Had the call continued, most likely he would have been asked to deliver money at a drop off point if he wanted to see his son again.

There other scam is from a caller who wants the victim to buy phone cards and read off the numbers if they want to see their loved one again. An unusual ransom one might think. The caller is in prison and exploits uncertainty, fear and panic in people. They have practiced and honed their skills overt time and can get the victim to volunteer names. They have recordings of people screaming to add authenticity. A surprisingly large number of people are duped. The scam is said to have originated in Mexico where real kidnappings are common place but is now widespread. So before you part with your cash - try calling the 'missing' person. Chances are they're oblivious to their supposed plight.  We live in a virtual world.

Tags: Virtual Kidnapping, virtual reality, Extortion, Buenos Aires, Argentina, scams, dangers, annoyances, crime, tips, beware,

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Nick October 15, 2008 4:59 pm  

You have to admire the ingenuity of these scammers, they've always got some new trick up their sleeves. The best defence is just deep suspicion of any call that doesn't come from someone you actually know. And of course simple common sense. Indeed, how about calling the supposedly missing person? Luckily, phone scams are pretty rare here, bogus emails of the Please confirm your PIN number variety are much more likely.

Quickroute October 15, 2008 5:14 pm  

@ Nick: I heard something on BBC radio today about old age pensioners in the UK being duped into withdrawing large wads from ATM's to pay ransom - i guess it's everywhere

Baino October 15, 2008 6:31 pm  

Jeez that's a bit scarey, especially if you've got family and friends who are out of reach! I'm with Nick there, it's mainly the spam scams that rip people off here and they're getting better and better!

Stevo October 15, 2008 11:56 pm  

Thanks, I may investigate a new line of work. Hehe.

Anonymous,  October 16, 2008 12:45 am  


Can I license it for use here?

Nick October 16, 2008 4:45 am  

Didn't hear that story about UK pensioners. Will have to warn my mum about supsicious phone calls!

Quickroute October 16, 2008 8:41 am  

@ Baino: Yes- I've heard the phising is reaping rewards

@ Megan: POW! KAZAAM!

@ Steve: Earn $$$$ from your own home!

@ Primal: I'm selling franchises and I'll give you a discount

@ Nick: better safe than sorry

Anonymous,  October 16, 2008 1:42 pm  

That's just evil. I was wondering why there was a school here in Wicklow exclusively for Mexican kids, hidden away in a forest. Someone explained that it was the safest place the parents at home could think of because kidnapping is so damn common in that neck of the woods.

And we think we have problems?

VE October 16, 2008 2:05 pm  

That's why I don't know anybody! They can't fool me then...

Anonymous,  October 16, 2008 3:12 pm  

That is just plain evil, goes to show you the amount if sick ppl put there.

Broke But Still Drinking October 16, 2008 3:19 pm  

Same thing happened to me but the kidnappers said they had one of my precious beers. I checked my fridge and couldn't tell if one of them was missing or not because I drank a lot the night before. I told the kidnappers they were bluffing and then heard a bottle smash. I cried for a whole day after. Never again will I take one of my beers for granted. Life is short and you never know when you'll lose something you truly love.

Quickroute October 16, 2008 10:03 pm  

@K8: Never realised there were Mexicans at home - they must be craving good tex mex

@VE: You know me - would you pay the ransom?

@L o N: Sickos everywhere unfortunately

@Broke: It was only a Stohl - you'll recover

Anonymous,  July 24, 2009 11:24 pm  

I fell for this back in 2006...only the caller seemed to know my girlfriend's clothes and what she had on her. And when I went to the ATM, they knew I'd talked to someone in the line. Ended up costing me US$5000 and a trip back to the states. Bottom line is that security is everything. Be paranoid. Make sure your loved ones have a cell phone that is never turned off, because the most common times to pull this scam are when they walk into a movie theater or the gym. And the truth is, if they know where your friend or family member is, then they CAN pick them up. These motherfuckers need to be eradicated, and I'd be happy to see them all pissed on and beheaded, but until that day, watch your back. Argentina is, in many ways, anarchy; you survive by building up your own defenses.

Quickroute July 25, 2009 12:31 am  

@ Anonymous: Sorry you were victimised like that - It's a shame that a country with so much to offer produces some of the most evil corruption too

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