Gwinnett family targeted in an abduction fraud scheme

(Lawrenceville, Ga., Mar. 5, 2024) – Gwinnett County Police Department reports local family was defrauded of several hundred dollars after believing their teen daughter was abducted.

According to a press release from GCPD, on Feb. 21, officers assigned to the Central Precinct met with a local father who was concerned that his 18-year-old daughter had been abducted. The father said that somebody contacted him via a text messaging app that his daughter was in their custody, and they were demanding $15,000 for her safe return. They asked for an initial payment of $440, which the father sent.

The teen was last seen leaving her apartment on Sweetwater Road in unincorporated Lawrenceville at about 1:30 p.m. – before the father received the first messages.

The FBI was called in but the general public was not alerted for the teen’s safety. 

Officers and detectives worked diligently to follow up on leads and kept the family updated on the case while actively looking for the teen. The amount of money requested by the ‘kidnappers’ was constantly changing. Two days later, on Feb.23, an undercover officer spotted the teen walking down the sidwalk of Sweetwater Road. She was eventually reunited with her father.

“Following the interview with the teen, detectives learned that an unknown person called the teen on the phone, telling her that they were from the Mexican government. They told her that her phone was being used to make death threats to Mexican authorities.  When the victim denied the allegations, the person indicated that her family and herself were now in danger of being targeted further by these ‘hackers of whom were using her phone number to make the threats. Over the next two days, the teen gave the suspects information about her family and her text messaging app login information.  She even sent photographs of herself looking sad at the request of the unknown person, as she was informed that her appearance would make her investigation reach a higher priority.  The suspects then used the personal information to convince the family of their seriousness and used the photos as ‘proof of life.’ The suspects later instructed the teen to switch her phone to Airplane Mode. She left her apartment in fear that the ‘hackers would come to her location and camped out alone at a lake near her apartment. After two days, with her phone battery at one percent, she exited the woods to find a charger.  Ultimately, an undercover officer saw her while walking down the sidewalk on Sweetwater Road,” GCPD reported.

GCPD said the suspects involved in this incident are believed to be in Mexico, and their identities are unknown. Anyone with any information to share in this case is encouraged to contact Crime Stoppers of Greater Atlanta at 404.577.8477. 

Deception scams, like the case above, also target employees at businesses. Sometimes, an employee working at a store or business will receive a phone call from an unknown person claiming that the employee needs to take or transfer cash to clear an account or audit. Employees believe they are helping the business stay out of trouble by solving the issue themselves. In recent cases, the employees were asked to remove cash from within the store and transfer it into Bitcoin. 

For helpful information regarding cryptocurrency scams, visit FTC Consumer Advice.

“Cases like these are not limited to just these incidents in Gwinnett County. We urge you to educate yourselves about these crimes and share your knowledge with your family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Start a conversation, talk about this case. Develop a plan if you or someone you know receives a suspicious phone call, text message, or email. When in doubt, discontinue the conversation and verify the facts yourself. And never give out your or your family’s personal information,” GCPD noted.

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