Oakland Unified School District warns parents about kidnapping phone scam

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The Oakland Unified School District has issued a warning to parents about a phone scam in which the caller demands a ransom after telling them their child was injured or kidnapped. (KGO-TV)

Some parents in Oakland got a real the scare as the school year got underway when they got phone calls saying their child was injured or kidnapped, with the caller demanding a ransom.

Imagine the feeling as a parent. You get a phone call that your son or daughter has been injured at school or they've been kidnapped. And then, the caller says they want money right now. It's called "virtual kidnapping" and it has happened twice in the last few weeks at the same school, prompting Oakland Unified School District to issue a warning to parents.

As school started last month, a man called two parents and told them their child was abducted and then demanded a ransom. "This family did exactly what they're supposed to, calling the school and making sure that their child was safe," said John Sasaki with the school district.

Then it happened again last week with a man calling a grandparent to say their granddaughter suffered a broken nose, urging them to pay money immediately for medical treatment.

Sasaki says they are taking this very seriously. "We never want anybody feeling like there's something going on with their child when there is indeed not something going on with their child," he told ABC7 News.

"It makes my heart race for these poor parents who would get that kind of a phone call. It's the last phone call you would ever want to receive," Oakland parent Emily George says.

Virtual kidnapping attempts are happening more frequently across the country according to the FBI.

One woman who wished to remain unidentified told ABC7 News about how she was threatened that her daughter would be harmed if she didn't head to a bank within 60 seconds. "It was very, very cruel," she said.

The advice is to hang up and check on your child's welfare directly with the school.
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