LOS ANGELES (AP) - Authorities are warning about a rise in virtual kidnappings - where con artists falsely claim to be holding victims' relatives for ransom.
Los Angeles police and federal officials warned Tuesday that dozens of people have fallen prey to the scam in recent years and have paid out more than $100,000.
Authorities say the scammers typically claim that the victim's child or other relative faces mutilation or death unless money is paid. Sometimes the calls are made at random but sometimes the scammers target people using information gleaned from their social media accounts.
The FBI says it's received some 80 reports of victims in California, Texas and Idaho.
Authorities say actual ransom kidnappings are rare, and anyone receiving such calls should hang up, check on their relatives' safety and contact police.
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