Kidnapping scam is targeting Catholic school parents, Santa Fe Archdiocese says

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Parents and guardians of Catholic school students in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, New Mexico, are being targeted with a “kidnapping scam,” the archdiocese said Wednesday. 

The archdiocese put out a statement announcing that it had been made aware of the scam in which “wrongdoers” have been contacting parents or guardians saying their children have been kidnapped from school and won’t be returned until a ransom is paid.

The longtime scam has been popping up in different areas across the country in recent months and has targeted public school systems as well. 

The statement said that the scammers sometimes use the name of the child and the name of the school in their threat, “which makes this call extremely worrisome.”

Local authorities have confirmed that it is a scam and have advised parents and guardians not to pay any money, according to the statement. In the statement, authorities offered a list of advice for parents and guardians who are contacted by the scam.

Authorities advise those contacted to stay calm and not panic, as “scammers feed off panic and uncertainty.”

No payments should be made and a parent or guardian should demand to speak with the child. Parents or guardians should ask questions only the child would know the answer to. 

If the parent or guardian can call the police on another phone line during the scam call, they should. A police report should be filed with as much information about the scam as possible, such as the phone number, the accent of the scammer, background noise, or certain phrases used.

After a parent or guardian contacts the local authorities, the information will be referred to the FBI, because scams often cross state or country lines, the statement says. 

The statement also lists “tips to help prevent virtual kidnapping scams.”

Those tips include discouraging posting information about upcoming travel plans online. Parents and guardians are encouraged to discuss “virtual kidnapping” with their families before traveling. 

Other tips include having a password that family members can ask for as a code to confirm that a child is truly in danger. One should also be hesitant to provide financial information over the phone.

“The Archdiocese of Santa Fe is fully committed to the protection of all children and the vulnerable. Never hesitate to contact the authorities and, in this case, the school, and/or the Archdiocese of Santa Fe’s Catholic Schools Office 505.831.8214,” the statement says.

In October, the Boston Police Department issued an alert about a similar scam occurring in the Boston public school system. On Long Island, New York, the Bay Shore Union Free School District put out an alert to parents and guardians that a kidnapping scam was taking place in October.

In Crossville, Tennessee, a similar kidnapping scam was taking place in September, although the local police said it was aimed at adults in addition to children. 

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