• Spain's news in English

Catalonia struck by wave of 'virtual kidnappings'

Jessica Jones · 24 Feb 2015, 13:39

Published: 24 Feb 2015 13:39 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Extortionists have been ringing people around Catalonia and telling them their children have been kidnapped, when in fact they are safe and sound, in a bid to trick them into paying a ransom, Catalan police revealed on Tuesday.

The aim is to scare parents into handing over a ransom before they realize their children have not actually been kidnapped.

The majority of calls, according to the Mossos d'Esquadra police, are being made completely at random, so the callers cannot even be sure if their potential victim has children.

But for some phone calls, the extortionists have been doing some research beforehand; stopping people on the street to fill out a fake survey about the phone habits of their children, according to a report in Catalan daily newspaper, La Vanguardia.

"Catalan police are investigating three cases of #virtualkidnapping: 1 in Barcelona, 1 in Girona and 1 in Baiz Llobregat"

Catalan police are working together with Spanish national police to investigate the phone calls, which have also taken place in the northwestern Spanish region of Galicia. 

In 2013, Spanish indie group Delorean were the victims of a 'virtual kidnapping' in Mexico, when they were taken hostage by criminals posing as security guards and taken to a different hotel.

The kidnappers then called family members of the Basque quartet and tried to extort money from them. The kidnapping lasted 30 hours before police rescued the group.

The usual modus operandi in these types of fake abductions involves convincing the alleged hostages they are in danger in order for them to become unreachable or mysteriously absent.

Story continues below…

Scammers will pretend to be police officers when they call the victims and either ask them to hide out in an area with no phone signal or tap their mobiles so that nobody can reach them.

In January 2015, the FBI issued a statement warning of a wave of 'virtual kidnappings' in New York City whose methods resemble those currently being investigated in Spain.

Parents were being called and told their children had been kidnapped, the callers hoping to extort ransom money from the parents before they discovered their children were actually safe and sound.

For more news from Spain, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Jessica Jones (jessica.jones@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Spain's 'Napflix' aims to bore viewers to sleep
Photo: Screengrab/ Napflix

A Spanish video platform called Napflix, designed to put people to sleep with dull content, was launched this week and its founders are on the lookout for more "monotony and repetition."

Recipe: How to make fabada - traditional Asturian bean stew
Photo: Flavio Lorenzo Sánchez/Flickr

The hearty Asturian dish is a perfect lunch on a cold day... and don't forget the crusty bread and cider!

Brit 'paedo' held on Costa del Sol after Most Wanted appeal

One of Britain's most wanted fugitives was arrested on the Costa Del Sol following a tip-off from an expat just hours after his face appeared on a public appeal.

Spain's parliament approves deficit reduction measures
Photo: Images Money/Flickr

Spanish lawmakers approved on Thursday measures to reduce the public deficit and keep it under the target agreed with the European Union.

'Cubism and War' show opens at Barcelona Picasso Museum
Pablo Picasso Harlequin and Woman with a Necklace. Photo: MP

Barcelona's Picasso Museum unveiled an exhibition on "Cubism and War" on Thursday depicting how one of the most influential artistic styles of the 20th century survived the First World War.

Why this bionic limb pioneer doesn't believe in disability
Hugh Herr has been award Spain's top science prize. Photo: FPA

The Local speaks to Hugh Herr on winning Spain's top science prize and how being an amputee doesn't make him disabled.

Dine in the buff at Spain's first nudist restaurant
A buffet of organic food will be served on "human tables". Photo: Innato / Facebook

Spain's first naked dining experience is to arrive on the island of Tenerife following the success of a similar venture in London.

Spain's top court overturns bullfighting ban in Catalonia
Photo: AFP

Spain's Constitutional Court on Thursday cancelled a bullfighting ban in Catalonia in what is likely to exacerbate tensions between Madrid and the separatist region, and between animal activists and fans of the tradition.

Out of the dark: Five years on from Eta ceasefire
Eta members made a ceasefire declaration in January, 2011. Photo: Gara / AFP

Five years after armed separatist group Eta declared a permanent ceasefire, Basque journalist Alberto Letona is still wondering when the dialogue will begin.

Hunt for ten most wanted Brit fugitives hiding out in Spain
Call Crimestoppers if you recognize these faces.

These fugitives from British justice are thought to be hiding out in Spain. Do you recognize anyone?

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Madrid parish church faces fine over 'too noisy' bells
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Celebrate expat life at Madrid’s THRIVE convention
Fury after kids told to bring their own loo roll to school
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Disney announces plans for Don Quixote action movie
Activist tells 8-yr-old matador wannabe with cancer 'just die'
King to make last minute push to avoid third vote in Spain
Amazing photos of Catalonia's 'human tower' contest
What's on in Spain: October 2016
'No way, Jose! You'll never get your hands on our Rock'
Recipe: How to make a classic Spanish tortilla de patatas
Chorizo in paella? Go back to cooking school Jamie Oliver
Spain in eye of a perfect storm after 10 months without govt
Thousands share clips of life for 'Spain in a Day' film
Ten incredible Spain locations for Game of Thrones season 7
Analysis & Opinion
Why moving to Spain could be the best decision of your life
Seven reasons why autumn is the very best season in Spain
Spanish study finds four types of personality. Which are you?
New search underway for civil war grave of poet Lorca
Bison found decapitated on Valencia nature reserve
Forgotten Voices: What Brits in Spain think about Brexit
One dead and 14 injured in blast at Spanish resort
Game of Thrones want extras 'with muscles' to film in Spain
Thousands march in Madrid to push for bullfighting ban
jobs available