RICHMOND, Va. — Richmond Police detectives are warning the community about a new extortion scam that involves the social media apps, Facebook and WhatsApp.
Investigators said the scammers are using the mobile apps to threaten and defraud users to send them a specified amount of money.
The scammers use Facebook to find photos of the target and their family and WhatsApp to initiate voice or text messaging over the phone.
So far, all of the reported text messages and phone calls have been written and spoken in Spanish. Despite that, Richmond Police said everyone should be aware of this scam.
Police said the extortion scam begins with a text message from an unknown number stating the victim owes money. The scammer will then call or send a second message to the victim demanding about $200-$250.
If the victim does not comply, the scammer will threaten to harm the victim’s family in an attempt to collect the money.
If the victim ignores the threats, the scammer will then send photos of the victim’s family and friends that were found on their Facebook page.
The scammer will then proceed to send violent and graphic videos to the victim. The scammer will also claim they are in close proximity and will harm the victim if the money is not paid.
“The scammer will provide instructions informing the victim where to go and how to send the requested amount of money,” Richmond Police said in a press release. “They will be persistent and demand that the victim does not contact the police.”
Police said even if the victim attempts to block the scammer’s number, additional messages from other phone numbers may be received.
“It is important to understand these types of extortion scams are typically of an international scope and put people in great fear,” said Richmond Police. “The best way to prevent this happening to you or your loved ones is revisiting the security settings on your social media pages. Make sure your settings are set to private so the public does not have access to your personal content.”
Anyone receiving extortion scams are urged to call and file a report with the Richmond Police Department at (804) 646-5100 or contact Crime Stoppers at 780-1000 or at http://www.7801000.com.