‘Kidnap-for-ransom’ phone scam targeting parents in San Bernardino County


November 20, 2015

Source: abc7.com

Sheriff’s deputies are warning the public about a terrifying kidnapping scam targeting parents across San Bernardino County.

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It’s the kind of terrifying scam that strikes right at the heart of parents: A parent receives a phone call from a person who says their child is being held hostage, and the stranger vows to harm or kill the child unless a ransom is paid.

San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies say this kidnapping scam happened to several people just last week.

“We want to emphasize to the public that this has been determined to be a new scam. We have no cases of confirmed kidnappings that have occurred at this time,” said Jodi Miller of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.

In a typical scenario, Miller says the suspects use personal knowledge about the child and tell parents not to call 911. The suspects claim they’re monitoring police scanners and would know if law enforcement was notified.

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“The suspects are actually using children as decoys as part of these conversations, and have the children crying in the background yelling for mommy or daddy that they need help,” Miller said.

The victims are told to withdraw and wire anywhere from $500 to $5,000, which authorities say terrified parents are more than willing to do when unaware that their child is safe.

The caller keeps them on the phone until the transaction is done before the parent has a chance to call their child or double-check the caller’s story. Later, parents or family members learn their child or relative was never kidnapped or in any harm in the first place.

The terrifying crime hits close to home for many parents.

“You don’t know if it’s real or not if someone is saying that to you,” parent Jennifer Candler said. “That makes me scared also because how do you know my child’s information?”

Anyone who has received a similar call or who may have further information on this scam is asked to call authorities at (909) 387-8313 or (760) 956-5001.

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2 Americans abducted in southern Philippines


Source: Herald Online

By TERESA CEROJANO – Associated Press

MANILA, Philippines — 

More than a dozen armed men abducted a naturalized American, her teenage son and Filipino nephew before dawn Tuesday from a southern Philippine island near a stronghold of al-Qaida-linked militants, officials said.

Suspicion fell on the notorious Abu Sayyaf, which has been blamed for ransom kidnappings, beheadings and bombings in the last two decades, or a Muslim rebel commander whose group has been linked to previous abductions.

The 400-plus Abu Sayyaf militants, who are fighting for an Islamist state in the predominantly Christian nation, are holding three other kidnap victims, including a child, as part of desparate efforts to raise funds, according to the Philippine army.

The assailants seized Gerfa Yeatts Lunsmann, her 14-year-old son and 19-year-old Filipino nephew from a house in Zamboanga city’s Tictabon island village, then fled with their captives in two motorized boats, said police Senior Superintendent Edwin de Ocampo.

No contact or ransom demand has been made by the abductors, and their identities remain unconfirmed, de Ocampo said.

It happened near Basilan Island, the birthplace and stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf militants, about 550 miles (880 kilometers) south of Manila.

The largest Muslim separatist group, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, is present in the area but it has been negotiating with the government and a cease-fire has largely held for several years.

However, the military said a separatist Moro commander identified as Waning Abdulsalam may have been responsible. Rebel spokesman Von Al Haq said his group would investigate but that it has no such report and will not tolerate criminal activities.

Police earlier said the woman was a Filipino married to a German and the family lives in the U.S. state of Virginia.

But army Col. Buenaventura Pascual, commander of an anti-terrorist task force in Zamboanga, said his men on Tictabon Island saw the U.S. passports of Lunsmann and her son, showing they were American citizens.

Lunsmann, 50, was originally from Basilan and her previous name was Jerpa Usman, police and military officials said.

Pascual said the woman’s husband is apparently an American citizen of German ancestry. He did not accompany his wife and son, who arrived in the Philippines two weeks ago to visit relatives.

Calls and text messages to the U.S. Embassy were unanswered Tuesday.

“We have deployed troops to track down the victims,” Pascual said.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the local crisis committee was convened and that police and the military were trying to rescue the victims and capture the culprits.

Military spokesman Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang said intelligence reports showed the victims may have been brought to Basilan’s Tuburuan township.