Virtual Kidnappers Target Texas Physicians

TMA wants to alert you about a disturbing development that hit the family of medicine in the past several weeks.

On separate occasions, individuals contacted physicians in San Antonio, El Paso, and Corpus Christi and claimed to have kidnapped the doctor’s child with the intent to extort money from the physician. Ultimately, no physical harm came to any physician or their family, and no actual kidnappings occurred. 

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) office in San Antonio has more reports of physicians victimized by the scheme.

"This year, during the months of June and July, the FBI received multiple reports indicating physicians in McAllen, Laredo, Brownsville, and Del Rio, Tex., were contacted in attempts to collect extortion payments in 'virtual kidnapping' schemes," the FBI states.

The number of virtual kidnappings is increasing, and the perpetrators of these schemes may be targeting physicians in South Texas, the FBI says. 

The San Antonio FBI said an individual or an organization calls the victim and demands payment for the return of a kidnapped family member or friend. While no actual kidnapping occurred, the callers use co-conspirators, who sometimes scream for help in the background, to convince their victims of the legitimacy of the threat.

Callers, who sometimes say they are members of a drug cartel or corrupt law enforcement entity, typically demand an immediate ransom payment via wire transfer to ensure safe return of the allegedly kidnapped loved one. 

The victimized TMA member physicians are working with local law enforcement to determine how and where the criminals are getting physicians' personal information, including family members' names. Even though TMA does not keep the names of physicians' children in its member data and therefore cannot be the source of this information, we are working to assist the county medical societies in the affected counties.

For tips on how to avoid falling victim to the scheme, see the FBI’s news release. TMA will update you with new information as it becomes available.

Action, Aug. 15, 2014