The University of Texas at Austin Police Department, along with agents from the FBI and Joint Terrorism Task Force, are investigating anonymous hoax phone calls being made to parents and grandparents of students, claiming their children have been kidnapped, injured, or need medical attention.
According to Capt. Julie Gillespie, in the past month and a half, parents and grandparents of four UT Austin students have received calls from a person with an accent who demanded a small amount of money be transferred into a foreign bank account.
"It's a scam," said Gillespie. "No students have been kidnapped or hurt."
Investigators are trying to determine how these individuals are getting relatives' telephone numbers and have the following advice for family members receiving such a call:
- Remain calm and try to locate your family member. Remember, the vast majority of these calls are hoaxes. Whether done as a prank or an attempt to extort money, these individuals are trying to exploit your fears. If you have caller ID, write down the number.
- Do not tell the caller where you live or agree to any money transfer. Never provide information about you or your family (including the name of the individual allegedly kidnapped, injured, etc.).
- Ask to speak to your family member to confirm his/her identity. This foils the majority of these calls because the virtual kidnapper only has the upper hand as long as you believe that he/she really has your loved one. Don't be afraid to challenge them by asking "What is my child's name?"
- If the caller cannot or will not answer, hang up (many will hang up at the first sign of stubbornness).
If you or your family has been a victim of this scam, please contact local authorities and UTPD at 512-471-4441.