There's a new scam affecting families in Wisconsin and Illinois and it's using some seriously high-tech tricks to exploit your emotions and hard-earned money.

Buckle up, because we're about to dive into the world of virtual kidnapping scams.

What exactly is a virtual kidnapping scam?


Virtual kidnapping is a cunning scheme that preys on your deepest fears and uses cutting-edge technology to make it seem like your loved ones are in serious trouble. Imagine getting a phone call from someone claiming to be your family member, saying they're in jail or have been kidnapped.

But here's the twist: it's not actually them on the other end of the line, it's their voice... only cloned.

How do scammers pull off this scam?

These scammers are using artificial intelligence to clone the voices of a relative, making the call sound shockingly real. They may also be playing audio from a computer to make you think your loved one is there but not on the phone.

They demand money, usually in the form of a wire transfer, and threaten dire consequences if you don't comply.

READ MORE: Illinois Walgreens Employee Tries To Stop Highly Suspicious Transaction

They're completely playing on your emotions, hoping that you'll be so worried or scared that you won't think straight. And, if you're questioning how anyone could fall for this, the FBI explained it in more detail.

Not only are these "virtual kidnappers" pretending to be someone you know, but sometimes they even portray actual kidnappers, according to the FBI's Chicago office.

Victims may hear screams in the background of a call, but virtual kidnappers have been known to use recordings to sound more realistic. Virtual kidnappers often request payment via wire transfer and push victims to act quickly.

What can you do to protect yourself?


Beloit, Wisconsin Police recently issued a warning after a local resident fell victim to this sneaky AI scam. They're urging everyone to be extra vigilant and question everything. If you receive such a call, do not panic.

They advise you to take a deep breath and call your loved one back immediately. Verify their whereabouts and that they are not in any danger. Better yet, contact the police or the jail mentioned in the call to get confirmation.

Remember, these scammers thrive on exploiting our vulnerabilities, so it's crucial to stay calm and keep your wits about you. Protect yourself and your hard-earned money from falling into the hands of these unscrupulous criminals.

LOOK: The biggest scams today and how you can protect yourself from them

Using data from the BBB Scam Tracker Annual Risk Report, Stacker identified the most common and costly types of scams in 2022.

KEEP READING: These are the top 6 scams connected to the pandemic