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 fraudster 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 apps to call to make ransom 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 life, although there is at least one instance where 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…

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