Episode 89: How To Avoid A Virtual Kidnapping Scam

If you click on the links in this post and buy something, we may earn a small commission.

PB affiliate image

What would you do if a stranger called you and said that he had kidnapped your child?

Scared woman with cell phone.

Thanks so much to this week’s sponsor, eSalon! The professionals at eSalon create hair color formulated just for you! Visit eSalon.com/parenting and get 50% off of your first box.


Rebecca finally remembered the new name of Amy’s blog. Andrea showed off her newly-unpacked fall clothes. Amy declared her love of jeggings. And Rebecca got us off to a hungry start this week, talking about apple babka from Breads Bakery (cue Elaine Benes referring to non-chocolate babka as “lesser babka”). Don’t worry: if you’re not in NYC, they ship nationwide!

Virtual Kidnappings

There was a scary story in the Washington Post about a mother who got a phone call claiming that her 23-year-old daughter had been kidnapped. The kidnapper threatened to hurt the daughter if the mother didn’t send him money, all the while monitoring what the mother was doing by making her keep her phone on speaker. Eventually the mother realized that the kidnapping was fake and her daughter was safe, but not before she’d wired thousands of dollars to Mexico.

This scam isn’t new, but it’s having a resurgence thanks to social media. The perpetrators can mine sites like Facebook for all sorts of info that they could use against a parent or grandparent to make them think that the kidnapping was real.

The amazing thing is that all three of us had a story about this. Rebecca’s nephew had been the unknowing subject of one such scam, where his grandparents were targeted and asked to send money to their nephew to bail him out of jail. Andrea also knew people who had been targeted.

Amy even had something similar happen about twelve years ago, where the caller claimed that he had her mother, and would rape her if Amy didn’t do as he said.

So what can you do about it? A companion article has some good tips.

AT&T Unite Explore

Amy’s Byte this week is a mobile hotspot. The AT&T Unite Explore from NETGEAR is rugged, versatile, and has some great parental control features. When you’re not at home and need to get on WiFi, this is an excellent option. You can read her review here. Amy also wrote about the parental control features on Tom’s Guide.

National Teen Driver Safety Week

Andrea’s Byte is National Teen Driver Safety Week, which is next week (the week of October 16th). Motor vehicle crashes are the number one leading cause of death of teens 15 to 19 in the U.S., but there are apps and car integrations that can help. For example, Chevy’s Teen Driver technology is a built-in program that tells you how fast your teen is driving, lets you limit the radio volume, and can give you a report card of how your teen’s driving measures up. AT&T’s Drive Mode app and Verizon’s messaging app can both be set to silence text alerts when you’re driving, and send an automated message to the person texting you to let them know that you’re driving and will get back to them later. And the Focus app for iPhone will train you to drive screen-free by admonishing you if you pick up your cell phone while driving.

Manifest Destiny

Rebecca’s Byte is a massively long article (more than 12,000 words) in The New Yorker titled “Sam Altman’s Manifest Destiny.” It explores how the head of Y Combinator, a hugely successful startup accelerator that has helped nurture many successful Silicon Valley companies, is working to head off global human extinction from artificial intelligence. “OpenAI, the nonprofit that Altman founded with Elon Musk, is a hedged bet on the end of human predominance—a kind of strategic-defense initiative to protect us from our own creations. OpenAI was born of Musk’s conviction that an A.I. could wipe us out by accident.”

Sleep tight.

This Week’s Links

Breads Bakery ships nationwide! Rebecca sang the praises of their apple babka.

‘We have your daughter’: A virtual kidnapping and a mother’s five hours in hell, by Petula Dvorak – Washington Post

70 Arrested, hundreds more questioned at Indian call center related to IRS scams – Fox59

When Kim  Kardashian returns to social media, it will be very differet, by Patricia Gilbride – Mashable

How to avoid becoming a victim of a virtual kidnapping scam – Washington Post

Nimb: A Smart Ring That Helps You Feel Safe And Sounds

The Aries Collection by Ringly – the smartest bracelet you’ve ever seen

Amy’s review of the AT&T Unite Explore

National Teen Driver Safety Week

Chevy Teen Driver

AT&T’s Drive Mode

Focus: Screen Free Driving App

Sam Altman’s Manifest Destiny, by Tad Friend – The New Yorker

Can Posting Social Media Photos Stop Child Abuse? By Amy Oztan – Tom’s Guide

Are you following us on Facebook? It’s a great way to see what we’re reading (including articles that might show up in future episodes), ask us questions, and give us feedback.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *