Cyber fraudsters target parents with fake child abduction ransom demands

Fraudsters accessed student data to falsely claim kidnappings, demanding ransom from parents.

Cyber fraudsters target parents with fake child abduction ransom demands

HYDERABAD: In a disturbing new trend in cybercrime, fraudsters targeted parents with alarming threats of their children's abduction, demanding ransom payments for their supposed safe return. These schemes often involved anonymous calls from unfamiliar international numbers, primarily on the WhatsApp application, with the display of pictures of police officers to add credibility to their threats.

The criminals exploited the anonymity provided by Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calls, making it challenging to trace their origin. Parents of children studying abroad or those away from home during school hours were particularly vulnerable. The frequency of such incidents saw a notable increase recently.

One tragic case exemplified this alarming trend. Mohammed Abdul Arfath, an Indian student in Cleveland, USA, was reported kidnapped on March 7th of this year. Ten days later, his parents received a ransom demand of $1200 from an unidentified caller. Tragically, Arfath was later found murdered by unknown perpetrators. Similar incidents were reported this year involving Indian students studying abroad.

These fraudsters appeared to have access to compromised data of students pursuing higher education overseas. They used this information to contact and threaten the students' parents, claiming their children had been captured and demanding ransom.

Initially, these scams targeted parents of students studying abroad. Recently, however, parents of children attending schools and colleges within India also received such distressing calls, often from VoIP numbers linked to Pakistan and the UK. Several complaints were filed, and investigations were ongoing.

In response to these concerning developments, authorities issued an advisory stating that if anyone received such a call, they should immediately contact the police by dialling 100 or 1930 and visit the nearest police station to file a complaint. They should also reach out to educational authorities to verify the safety measures in place for their children if they receive such calls. They should also record any received calls, if possible, to aid in the investigation process.

Officials said that raising awareness and remaining vigilant was crucial to protecting our loved ones from these heinous acts of cybercrime.

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