UTPD, FBI, and JTTF Investigate Student Kidnapping Scam

July 16, 2012

AUSTIN, Texas — The University of Texas at Austin Police Department, along with agents from the FBI and Joint Terrorism Task Force, are investigating anonymous hoax phone calls being made to parents and grandparents of students, claiming their children have been kidnapped, injured, or need medical attention.

According to Capt. Julie Gillespie, in the past month and a half, parents and grandparents of four UT Austin students have received calls from a person with an accent who demanded a small amount of money be transferred into a foreign bank account.

“It’s a scam,” said Gillespie. “No students have been kidnapped or hurt.”

Investigators are trying to determine how these individuals are getting relatives’ telephone numbers and have the following advice for family members receiving such a call:

  • Remain calm and try to locate your family member. Remember, the vast majority of these calls are hoaxes. Whether done as a prank or an attempt to extort money, these individuals are trying to exploit your fears. If you have caller ID, write down the number.
  • Do not tell the caller where you live or agree to any money transfer. Never provide information about you or your family (including the name of the individual allegedly kidnapped, injured, etc.).
  • Ask to speak to your family member to confirm his/her identity. This foils the majority of these calls because the virtual kidnapper only has the upper hand as long as you believe that he/she really has your loved one. Don’t be afraid to challenge them by asking “What is my child’s name?”
  • If the caller cannot or will not answer, hang up (many will hang up at the first sign of stubbornness).

If you or your family has been a victim of this scam, please contact local authorities and UTPD at 512-471-4441.

For more information, contact: Rhonda Weldon, Univ Op-Communications, 512-350-8913.

3 Comments to "UTPD, FBI, and JTTF Investigate Student Kidnapping Scam"

1.  Cathleen Lenig said on July 16, 2012

I don't know if this would be related, but about a year ago, we received a phone call from someone claiming to be the Huntsville Police, saying that our son ( a student at Sam Houston University) had been arrested and we needed to send them money to post his bail.

We assumed that a local prison(er) had hacked into the student records (since this was Huntsville) and gotten our contact information and we hung up on them and immediately called our son, who was fine.

Just wanted to let you know in case it helps.

2.  Meaghan said on July 16, 2012

The University's online directory provides FAR too much information about the students to anyone who choses to search. Home addresses right down to apartment numbers and home/cell phone numbers need not be posted. It would be very easy for scammers to find home telephone numbers for students.... so students- restrict your information now by searching 'restrict my information' on the UT home page! You can choose exactly what information is restricted versus available.

3.  Christy said on July 21, 2012

Oh Huntsville.