Posted: Jul 15, 2014 6:50 PM
Updated: Jul 15, 2014 7:07 PM
McALLEN - Federal authorities say physicians may be the newest target of drug cartels in the Rio Grande Valley.
Dr. Noel Lopez said he received a call from a man claiming to be a member of the Zetas drug cartel. The caller demanded money from Lopez in exchange for his daughter's life.
"Let me talk to my daughter; I want to hear her voice," Lopez said.
Lopez received another call at his McAllen office. The man at the other end of the line claimed to be a physician. Lopez's receptionist put the call through.
"As soon as I got on the phone a man comes on the line stating that he had my daughter ... that he kidnapped my daughter," Lopez said.
Lopez said the man said he was a member of the Zetas and demanded $50,000 or they would send his daughter's head in a bag.
Lopez said the first 30 seconds of that call seemed like a reality.
"I said I didn't have $50,000. I said, ‘I'll give you $1,000,' assuming that it was my daughter," the doctor said.
Lopez recorded the conversation for police.
The man on the other end of the line had a girl crying and begging Lopez to save her.
"When he said it was my daughter, I started getting kind of suspicious. It was very scary to get a call like that," Lopez said.
Lopez said his daughter is safe and was never kidnapped.
Lopez filed a police report with McAllen police. Mission police also confirmed they received a report about a similar incident.
The FBI said the incidents are cases of virtual kidnappings.
Information from the FBI on virtual kidnappings
Many "vitual kinappers" prey on family members by using a lost or stolen cell phone to make a "ransom" demand. You can avoid this scam by password protecting your phone, and never storing names in your address book which may reveal your loved ones. Passwords are the best defense because scammers can likely identify your loved ones by searching call history and call those numbers dialed the most. If you ever lose your phone, be sure to call your loved ones and let them know you are okay.
If you have any doubt whether a call is a legitimate kidnapping, don't hesitate to call law enforcement. We have dealt with these situations and know how to increase the chances of recovering victims safely. We may also help you avoid losing a lot of money to a scam that exploits the fears of many in the RGV who have relatives and loved ones living in or near Mexico.