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Sheriff's office: Beware of 'kidnapping' scam


The Howell County Sheriff’s Office has issued an alert concerning a scam brought to authorities attention by way of “numerous calls” from citizens.

The agency reported it has received a high number of calls from members of the community who say they have answered their phones to a caller they do not know claiming a family member has been kidnapped, said the sheriff’s office in a post made to Facebook alerting the public. According to the reports, the caller demands money via gift cards in order to for the “kidnapped” family member to be “returned safely.”

The calls appear to come from local numbers, as scammers often use a tactic called “spoofing,” mimicking numbers that are not actually theirs on caller ID, to increase their odds.

“The phone numbers used for these scams are easily fabricated and typically do not reflect the actual phone number being used to contact potential victims,” said the sheriff’s office.

Anyone who receives a call of this nature is urged to contact the supposedly kidnapped family member to verify their safety and call the sheriff’s office to alert them of the call, at 417-256-2544.

Those who may need assistance in checking a family member's well being are encouraged to call the law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction in the area where the family member lives and ask for a well-being check.