Hands typing on a laptop overlaid with images of closed locks.

Recently, members of the Bellevue School District community have been impacted by “Cyber Kidnapping” schemes, also known as virtual kidnappings. Cyber kidnappings aim to get an individual to believe that a loved one has been kidnapped, are in immediate danger and a ransom must be paid. The scheme can take place over the telephone or digitally. Although no actual kidnapping has taken place, scammers demand that victims pay for the safe release of their loved one. These schemes often involve the use of technology such as artificial intelligence voice spoofing, caller ID spoofing, and social media activity to convince unsuspecting victims to pay money.

BSD Safety and Security provides some guidance to our learning community in the event they become impacted by a cyber kidnapping scheme:

  • ALWAYS contact law enforcement.
  • Stop and think. Do the demands and claims make sense?
  • Demand to speak to your loved one or have someone else attempt to contact them.
  • Ask for answers or a code word only your loved one would know.
  • Buy time and cooperate with law enforcement. Scammers want to expedite a ransom payment.
  • Remember, these scams work by confusing and stressing out victims. Counter that by stopping and assessing the situation.

Tips for Personal Safety

The National Institutes of Health recently provided additional information taken from a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) press release on keeping individuals safe from this type of extortion scheme. They include the following personal safety tips:

  • Establish a code word only you and your loved ones would know.
  • Avoid providing personal information to strangers when traveling. This information can be exploited by criminals.
  • Check the privacy settings on your social media accounts and revisit what information you have publicized. The more information you provide, the easier it is for scammers to attempt an extortion scheme.

The Bellevue School District acknowledges that we learn, work, live and gather on the Indigenous Land of the Coast Salish peoples, specifically the Duwamish and Snoqualmie Tribes. We thank these caretakers of this land, who have lived and continue to live here, since time immemorial.