Hostage Scam Calls

By: Sheriff Carmine Marceno

Nationwide, victims are reaching out to law enforcement agencies regarding horrific phone calls indicating that a member of the family has been abducted by a Mexican drug cartel. Calls may come from a VoIP source which digitizes audio and transmits it over the internet or may simply appear as a standard local or out-of-area phone number.

Most victims have indicated that the caller knows the name of a family member and may have access to other personal information.

One Arizona victim indicated that she was told that she was being followed, that her phone was “bugged,” and that she needed to wire money immediately. While this particular victim was savvy and recognized that the call was fraudulent, she indicated that she continued to receive threatening calls and texts.

Callers across the country, as well as in Lee County, have received calls demanding large sums of money. Many of the scammers indicate that the abducted family member will be harmed or killed should law enforcement be notified. Reportedly, the callers attempt to keep the victim engaged in conversation so as to prevent them from verifying the status of the family member in question.

This scam is, in no way, new to law enforcement. Reports of similar calls date back several decades. Should you receive such a call, it is important to remain calm. It is important to avoid sharing any personal information with the caller. Document any information given to you by the caller. If at all possible, using another device, attempt to contact the alleged victim.

Immediately contact law enforcement regarding the call. Should you believe that an emergency exists, call 9-1-1. Additionally, an electronic tip to the Federal Bureau of Investigation can be generated by visiting

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