Missing Persons Scam – How Scams Work

Last Updated on by SCARS Editorial Team

Missing Persons ScamsScams A Scam is a confidence trick - a crime -  is an attempt to defraud a person or group after first gaining their trust through deception. Scams or confidence tricks exploit victims using their credulity, naïveté, compassion, vanity, irresponsibility, or greed and exploiting that. Researchers have defined confidence tricks as "a distinctive species of fraudulent conduct ... intending to further voluntary exchanges that are not mutually beneficial", as they "benefit con operators ('con men' - criminals) at the expense of their victims (the 'marks')". A scam is a crime even if no money was lost.

How Scams Work

A SCARSSCARS SCARS - Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc. A government registered crime victims' assistance & crime prevention nonprofit organization based in Miami, Florida, U.S.A. SCARS supports the victims of scams worldwide and through its partners in more than 60 countries around the world. Incorporated in 2015, its team has 30 years of continuous experience educating and supporting scam victims. Visit www.AgainstScams.org to learn more about SCARS. Special Report

New Type of Cyber-Enabled FraudFraud In law, fraud is intentional deception to secure unfair or unlawful gain (money or other assets), or to deprive a victim of a legal right. Fraud can violate civil law (e.g., a fraud victim may sue the fraud perpetrator to avoid the fraud or recover monetary compensation) or criminal law (e.g., a fraud perpetrator may be prosecuted and imprisoned by governmental authorities), or it may cause no loss of money, property, or legal right but still be an element of another civil or criminal wrong. The purpose of fraud may be monetary gain or other benefits, for example by obtaining a passport, travel document, or driver's license, or mortgage fraud, where the perpetrator may attempt to qualify for a mortgage by way of false statements. A fraud can also be a hoax, which is a distinct concept that involves deliberate deception without the intention of gain or of materially damaging or depriving a victim. – Missing Person Scams

Scammers Target Families Who Post Missing Persons on Social Media

You see it every day on Facebook or other social media platforms. A family member posts that their teenager has disappeared or senior parent has not returned from a trip out of the house. The goal, of course, is to crowdsource the missing person’s recovery.

Here’s where the fraudsterFraudster A Scammer or Fraudster is someone that engages in deception to obtain money or achieve another objective. They are criminals that attempt to deceive a victim into sending more or performing some other activity that benefits the scammer. can come in: after identifying a missing person on social media, scammers research details of the disappearance, the missing person, and the missing person’s family. The scammers often obtain telephone numbers for the family members on social media and use third-party calling or messaging appsApps Applications or Apps An application (software), commonly referred to as an ‘app’ is a program on a computer, tablet, mobile phone or device. Apps are designed for specific tasks, including checking the weather, accessing the internet, looking at photos, playing media, mobile banking, etc. Many apps can access the internet if needed and can be downloaded (used) either for a price or for free. Apps are a major point of vulnerability on all devices. Some are designed to be malicious, such as logging keystrokes or activity, and others can even transport malware. Always be careful about any app you are thinking about installing. to call to make ransomRansom A ransom is an amount of money or other assets of value that is paid for blackmail, extortion, or under other threats or coercion. The ransom is usually paid in cash or now in cryptocurrency. Online blackmail, sextortion, and ransomware all demand ransoms to avoid negative outcomes. demands.

The demand usually ranges from $5,000 to $10,000, with $7,000 being a common amount. Generally, offenders do not offer proof of lifeProof of Life Proof of Life Photos or Sign Photos are photos that scammers use to prove they are real. These are typically photoshopped photos to add some text or information to a previously stolen photo of the individual being used for the scam. The idea is that a victim requests proof with a photo showing a newspaper or some phrases and the scammer would then take it and share it with the victim. But as always, it is just more deception., although there is at least one instance where the scammerScammer A Scammer or Fraudster is someone that engages in deception to obtain money or achieve another objective. They are criminals that attempt to deceive a victim into sending more or performing some other activity that benefits the scammer. called the family pretending to be the victim. Offenders often claim the missing person is ill or injured, adding to the urgency of the situation and putting additional pressure on family members to pay the ransom.

Warning

SCARS and the FBIFBI FBI - Federal Bureau of Investigation The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is the domestic intelligence and security service of the United States and its principal federal law enforcement agency. Operating under the jurisdiction of the United States Department of Justice, the FBI is also a member of the U.S. Intelligence Community and reports to both the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence. A leading U.S. counter-terrorism, counterintelligence, and criminal investigative organization, the FBI has jurisdiction over violations of more than 200 categories of federal crimes, including financial fraud. warns the public of scammers seeking to extort family members of missing persons. These actors identify missing persons through social media posts and gather information about the missing person and family to legitimize their ransom demands without ever having physical contact with the missing person.

What Is A Missing Person ScamScam A Scam is a confidence trick - a crime -  is an attempt to defraud a person or group after first gaining their trust through deception. Scams or confidence tricks exploit victims using their credulity, naïveté, compassion, vanity, irresponsibility, or greed and exploiting that. Researchers have defined confidence tricks as "a distinctive species of fraudulent conduct ... intending to further voluntary exchanges that are not mutually beneficial", as they "benefit con operators ('con men' - criminals) at the expense of their victims (the 'marks')". A scam is a crime even if no money was lost.

The FBI defines this type of extortion as a range of telephonic coercion schemes for extorting quick ransom payments from the families of missing persons who are manipulated to believe their loved one has been abducted, are at risk of being abducted, or is in imminent danger. Additionally, the FBI defines social media as websites and mobile applicationsApplications Applications or Apps An application (software), commonly referred to as an ‘app’ is a program on a computer, tablet, mobile phone or device. Apps are designed for specific tasks, including checking the weather, accessing the internet, looking at photos, playing media, mobile banking, etc. Many apps can access the internet if needed and can be downloaded (used) either for a price or for free. Apps are a major point of vulnerability on all devices. Some are designed to be malicious, such as logging keystrokes or activity, and others can even transport malware. Always be careful about any app you are thinking about installing. that allow users to create and share content or to participate in social networking, or find people with similar interests.

This means it can come through the phone, email, messaging, or other means.

How Does A Missing Persons Scam Work?

It is common for scammers to only request small amounts of money as missing person scams tend to be a quick cash-grab. In addition to small requests, scammers tend to express some level of urgency in the payment by claiming the victim is either injured or sick.

In August 2020, a scammer targeted a mother who reported her 13-year-old daughter as missing on social media. The mother posted information on social media seeking assistance; however, that information was eventually used against her. Included in the online post was the mother’s personal phone number. According to the FBI’s Internet Crimes Complaint Center, scammers took advantage of this by calling the mother, claiming they had her daughter and required some ransom for her safe return. In the past, scammers have used this pressure tactic to demand ransom sums ranging from $5,000 to $10,000. Thankfully, the 13-year-old daughter had never actually been abducted and safely returned home before the scammers could capitalize on the family’s concern.

Scammer Methodologies

While scammers’ use of social media to target victims is known, its use to extort vulnerable families of missing persons is lesser-known. After identifying a missing person on social media, scammers research details of the disappearance, the missing person, and the missing person’s family. The scammers often obtain telephone numbers for the family members on social media and use third-party calling or messaging applications to make ransom demands to disguise their true telephone number. The criminalCriminal A criminal is any person who through a decision or act engages in a crime. This can be complicated, as many people break laws unknowingly, however, in our context, it is a person who makes a decision to engage in unlawful acts or to place themselves with others who do this. A criminal always has the ability to decide not to break the law, or if they initially engage in crime to stop doing it, but instead continues. actor generally requests between $5,000 and $10,000 in ransom, with $7,000 requested in multiple instances.

These scammers use social media or networks to identify, initiate contact, and gain access to families of missing persons. The offenders usually do not offer proof of life. However, in one instance, an accomplice made telephone calls to family members claiming to be the missing person. Offenders often claim the missing person is ill or injured, adding to the urgency of the situation and putting additional pressure on family members to pay the ransom.

Since the onset of COVID-19 nationwide stay-at-home orders, law enforcement has received large numbers of reports of scammers targeting families who have posted on social media about their missing family members.

Although scammers used social media to identify victims prior to the pandemic, the effects of COVID-19 on families’ well-being are an added vulnerability and an additional opportunity for these actors to extort families of missing persons.

More Examples

In May 2020, a father reported his son missing to law enforcement. The child’s family created social media posts seeking assistance in locating their child, after which the child’s father received a text message demanding ransom.

In May 2018, a family reported an 18-year-old woman as missing. Local media reported the disappearance and family members posted a request for information on her disappearance to social media, along with a personal telephone number. Individuals claiming to have abducted the woman contacted the family telephonically at the provided personal number. One of the scammers claimed to be the victim and spoke to family members, saying they were drugged, threatened with physical assault, and taken to another state. Subsequent investigation revealed the missing woman was never abducted and was eventually found unharmed.

How Can Families Protect Themselves From These Fraudulent Requests?

Although these scams provide an initial wave of hope to the victim’s families, it is recommended to approach these online encounters with caution and let law enforcement handle the situation.

If you are the target or victim of an extortion attempt related to a missing person:

  • Contact your local law enforcement agency or your local FBI field office – contact information can be found at (www.fbi.gov) immediately, just like any other kidnapping or ransom crime
  • Keep all original documentation, emails, text messages, and logs of communication with the subjects. Do not delete anything before law enforcement is able to review it
  • Tell law enforcement everything about the online encounters—it may be embarrassing for the parent or partner of a missing person, but it is necessary to find the offenders. When reporting online scams, be as descriptive as possible in the complaint form by providing:
    • Name and/or user name of the subject
      email addresses and telephone numbers used by the subject
    • Web sites used by the subject
    • Description of all interactions with the subjects
  • Report this crime to the FBI first by phone, then other the FTC & Anyscam.com when it is determined to be a scam

If you are the victim of any online fraud, you should also report the incident to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov or call your FBI local office.

Essential Tools For Every Scam Victim From SCARS

Each is based on our SCARS Team’s 30 plus years of experience.

SCARS GREN BOOK - The SCARS STEPS Guide to Scam Victim Recovery

SCARS GREEN BOOK
Self-Help Self-Paced Recovery Program Guide

LEARN HOW TO RECOVER ON YOUR OWN

This program is designed to help scam victims struggling to recover on their own and for those who want to understand the overall process. You can be using other resources, such as traumaTrauma Emotional and psychological trauma is the result of extraordinarily stressful events that shatter your sense of security, making you feel helpless in a dangerous world. Psychological trauma can leave you struggling with upsetting emotions, memories, and anxiety that won’t go away. It can also leave you feeling numb, disconnected, and unable to trust other people. Traumatic experiences often involve a threat to life or safety or other emotional shocks, but any situation that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and isolated can result in trauma, even if it doesn’t involve physical harm. It’s not the objective circumstances that determine whether an event is traumatic, but your subjective emotional experience of the event. The more frightened and helpless you feel, the more likely you are to be traumatized. Trauma requires treatment, either through counseling or therapy or through trauma-oriented support programs, such as those offered by SCARS. counselingCounseling Counseling is the professional guidance of the individual by utilizing psychological methods especially in collecting case history data, using various techniques of the personal interview, and testing interests and aptitudes. A mental health counselor (MHC), or counselor, is a person who works with individuals and groups to promote optimum mental and emotional health. Such persons may help individuals deal with issues associated with addiction and substance abuse; family, parenting, and marital problems; stress management; self-esteem; and aging. They may also work with "Social Workers", "Psychiatrists", and "Psychologists". SCARS does not provide mental health counseling. or therapy, qualified support groupsSupport Groups In a support group, members provide each other with various types of help, usually nonprofessional and nonmaterial, for a particular shared, usually burdensome, characteristic, such as romance scams. Members with the same issues can come together for sharing coping strategies, to feel more empowered and for a sense of community. The help may take the form of providing and evaluating relevant information, relating personal experiences, listening to and accepting others' experiences, providing sympathetic understanding and establishing social networks. A support group may also work to inform the public or engage in advocacy. They can be supervised or not. SCARS support groups are moderated by the SCARS Team and or volunteers., or completely independent – on your own!

The SCARS Steps program is a complete program and is provided for the purpose of helping scam victims to overcome this experience. Throughout this SCARS Steps Program, we speak about issues and challenges that a victim may have and help guide them through their recovery. But each person is different and it is important to understand your own reasons for being vulnerable to being scammed.

After the trauma of being scammed, you need to take steps to recover and move on. This may be an alternative to counseling in the short term, but we still encourage you to seek out professional help & support. Throughout this SCARS Steps Program, we speak about issues, challenges, defects, or problems that a victim may have in a generalized way.

The SCARS GREEN BOOK will help you recover from your scam offline and it will always be there when you need it!

Get it here

SCARS BLUE BOOK - Survivor's Recovery Journal

SCARS BLUE BOOK
A Unique SurvivorSurvivor A Scam Survivor is a victim who has been able to fully accept the reality of their situation. That they were the victim of a crime and are not to blame. They are working on their emotional recovery and reduction of any trauma either on their own, through a qualified support organization, or through counseling or therapy. And has done their duty and reported the crime to their local police, national police, and on Anyscam.com’s Recovery Journal

THE PERFECT DAILY JOURNAL FOR SCAM VICTIMS IN RECOVERY

Give yourself the perfect tool to measure and track your recovery progress while getting the therapeutic benefit of journaling!

This official SCARS Self-Help Recovery Program Journal allows you to record your journey day by day, to be able to look back and see your progress, and measure your achievements. While this is a difficult time in your life, it will get better in time and journaling is an important way to help you through many of those moments, but also to show yourself how strong you are!

The Official SCARS BLUE BOOK is your way of recording this struggle and help yourself through it.

A special discount is available when buying 3 at a time.

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SCARS RED BOOK - Your Personal Scam Evidence & Crime Record Organizer

SCARS RED BOOK
Your Personal Scam Evidence & Crime Record Organizer

ORGANIZE YOUR INFORMATION TO MAKE THE REPORTING PROCESS SIMPLE!

Helps you get and stay organized. This publication is to help Scam Victims organize their crime information. Complete this information before reporting to the police then bring this book with you

Before or after reporting to the police the RED BOOK gives you a dedicated tool to record all the essential facts of this crime. The Victim, the Scammers, the Money, and your Police interactions. Everything that really matters can be easily recorded for your immediate use and for the future!

As we have seen, money recovery/repayment programs can become available years after the scam ends and you need to keep all the details of this crime in case it is needed. We have also seen scammers being extradited to the U.S. and other countries, this will help in the event you testify or give statements, Additionally, this helps you have your information ready to qualify for victims’ benefits, compensation, or aid.

The Official SCARS RED BOOK is your way of recording all the important facts of this crime so that you do not lose essential information, Complete the RED BOOK then put it away with the confidence that you will have it if or when it is needed.

Get it here

SCARS LIME BOOK - Wisdom & Motivation for Scam Victims

SCARS LIME BOOK
Wisdom & Motivation for Scam Victims

A SURVIVOR’S GUIDE FOR MOTIVATION & WISDOM ABOUT SCAMS & RECOVERY

After the scam, life is filled with challenges and uncertainty. So many things are going wrong and how do you recover from the experience. There is a way. In the SCARS GREEN BOOK we present the complete SCARS Steps Recovery Program, but there is more to it.

You need to keep yourself motivated and understand that you are not the first person to go through this. The SCARS LIME BOOK helps you stay positive and motivated, and gain the wisdom that comes from helping millions of scam victims that SCARS has done.

This small book is packed with motivational insights and survivor wisdom to help you get up every day, make it through the through times, and sleep assured that time heals all emotional wounds.

The Official SCARS LINE BOOK is your way of reminding yourself every day that you are strong and can make it through this!

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SCARS SLATE BOOK - A Guide For Families & Friends Of Scam Victims

SCARS SLATE BOOK – A Guide For Families & Friends Of Scam Victims

HOW TO HELP ROMANCE SCAM VICTIMS FOR FAMILIES & FRIENDS OF SCAM VICTIMS

This SCARS Publishing book represents a complete guide to help the families and friends understand how these scams work and how to help the victim.

The SCARS Slate Book should be purchased by family and friends to better understand what happened to the victim and the traumatic impact on them. But it can also be shared by the victim so that they do not have to explain to family and friends about the scam. This publication is to help others to help Scam Victims to make it through this traumatic experience and recover.

Each person is different and it is important to understand how relationship scamsRelationship Scam A Relationship Scam is a one-to-one criminal act that involves a trust relationship and uses deception & manipulation to get a victim to give to the criminal something of value, such as money! Click here to learn more: What Is A Relationship Scam? work and why people are vulnerable; to being scammed, how they were lured in, then groomed and manipulated. This understanding is essential in helping them through the process of ending the scam and then on to recovery. The SCARS Slate Book will provide the information necessary to help support a victim through this process.

Get it here

SCARS PEARL BOOK - The SCARS Online Safety Password Log Book

SCARS PEARL BOOK – The SCARS Online Safety Password Log Book

AN ONLINE SAFETY TOOL FROM SCARS HELPS YOU TO STAY SAFE ONLINE!

We all know that we need to create and maintain stronger & safer passwords, but how can anyone possibly manage them? Actually, the process is not that hard with the right tools. Every only user needs to have two items: 1) a Password Manager App (such as LastPass or TrueKey), and 2) a master password log book!

But if you have a password manager app why do you need a logbook too? Because what if you are unable to access your password manager? What do you do then? The truth is that all software can be unavailable at times, or what do you do if you forget the password to your password manager? The answer is to have a backup logbook where you store all of your passwords in an organized way.

The SCARS PEARL BOOK helps to remind you about how to create strong passwords and how to keep them safe, but most importantly organizes all of your passwords in one place by accounts wor websites, making them easy to maintain and find when you need them.

Get it here

Always Report All Scams – Anywhere In The World To:

U.S. FTCFTC The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is an independent agency of the United States government whose principal mission is the enforcement of civil (non-criminal) U.S. antitrust law and the promotion of consumer protection. The FTC can also act as a clearinghouse for criminal reports sent to other agencies for investigation and prosecution. To learn more visit www.FTC.gov or to report fraud visit ReportFraud.FTC.gov at https://reportfraud.ftc.gov/#/?orgcode=SCARS and SCARS at www.Anyscams.com

Find Real Scammer & Fake Stolen Photos On ScamsONLINE.org
The SCARS Scammer Photo Gallery Website
Click Here To Donate To SCARS

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SCARS the Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Incorporated

By the SCARS™ Editorial Team
Society of Citizens Against Relationship ScamsSCARS SCARS - Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc. A government registered crime victims' assistance & crime prevention nonprofit organization based in Miami, Florida, U.S.A. SCARS supports the victims of scams worldwide and through its partners in more than 60 countries around the world. Incorporated in 2015, its team has 30 years of continuous experience educating and supporting scam victims. Visit www.AgainstScams.org to learn more about SCARS. Inc.

A Worldwide Crime Victims Assistance & Crime Prevention Nonprofit Organization Headquartered In Miami Florida USA & Monterrey NL Mexico, with Partners In More Than 60 Countries
To Learn More, Volunteer, or Donate Visit: www.AgainstScams.org
Contact Us: Contact@AgainstScams.org

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