How to protect your family from virtual kidnapping scams

Former Secret Service agent Evy Poumpouras shares tips on how to keep yourself safe from scam artists who call and falsely say they have kidnapped one of your loved ones.
4:26 | 01/17/18

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Transcript for How to protect your family from virtual kidnapping scams
We're going to turn to our "Gma" cover story. It's a parenting alert about a scam called virtual kidnapping and Amy, you've been tracking all of this, right? That's right. This scam is on the rise. Even prompting the FBI to issue a new warning about how you can protect your family. One couple understandably panicking when scam artists called telling them they had kidnapped their son demanding money and they got it all on camera. Take a look. You know what, you try to Me, I am going to kill your son, okay. I'm not Around. As long as you cooperate with my cartel, I promise you that yourson is going to be fine. Reporter: A calling claiming to be part of a Mexican cartel said he had the couple's young son and would kill him unless they immediately paid an $800 ransom. Now, listen, okay, I need you to get to a Western union or a money gram and stop wasting time. Reporter: It was all a hoax. The boy safely at school. The family who asked not to be identified spoke exclusively to ABC affiliate KESQ. They looked up something where they were able to get my husband's name, my name, our child's name, what city we were in. They knew phone numbers. Somehow some way I have no idea how they got it. Reporter: It's called virtual kidnapping and extortion scam where victims are tricked into paying ransom to free a loved one they believe will be harmed or killed when, in fact that, person is safe. I'm not going to be calling you back, okay. I'm not going to risk myself of getting caught by the police. Oh, I just don't want to you hurt my son, man. Reporter: It's becoming all too common. Get in your vehicle. No, I'm scared. I don't know you. Reporter: Haty Montoya recorded part of this from so-called kidnappers threatening to kill her brother if she didn't pay and anonymous caller demanded $3,000 from this north Carolina mother who asked us not to reveal her identity for the return of her kidnapped daughter. They told me that they had abducted her. He said if you put the phone down we'll just shoot her. Reporter: In every single case it was aa. Hoax. Evy poumpouras joining us. We hear those. Worst nightmare. If you get a call like this what is the best way. First, don't panic because that's what they want you to do. Put your phone on speaker. So that other people around can hear. Then track down your loved one immediately. Find out where they are and call 911. All right. But how can parents take steps on social media because obviously these people have been targeted and perhaps we're all guilty of putting out too much information. Yes, you have to be very, very thoughtful about what you put out there when you pest your kids, what are you sharing? Are you sharing their names where they go to school. Whether they like sports. I know you guys like to share as well. It's something you want to think about because you may post one picture and say, oh I just shared this small piece of information. They build a profile on you so they go through everything and then they build this profile in they're following you for some period of time before they do this. They use details against you and you start to think, wow, this could be true. Wow. All right. So a lot of apps ask you to link your phone number. I mean, it see like everywhere you go they want your phone number and information. I'm guessing you're saying don't give anything. Just say no. You know, just say no. It's okay to say no, I don't want to share it. No, I don't want to download this app and think about all these apps you don't know what the security features are, you don't know how they work so be thoughtful again what you download. Everything just use discretion. And yet still I get phone calls, I mean my phone number still gets out there somehow, some way. No way to make this, you know, just to remove yourself completely but it's really think about when the calls come in and what you're sharing. If it doesn't feel right hang up. I have a question. How pervasive is this? I see this story and think it seems so rare and yet it's happening more and more and more. How pervasive is this problem. It's been around for two decades. Really? Yes, they've been targeting those specic group of people and now it's actually just expanding and what they're hoping, it's like throwing spaghetti on the wall. Somebody will pay. You hit 100 people maybe 2 or 3 pay. Some fall prey and then they're embarrassed to go to law enforcement and tell them they did this. Bottom line is, don't share what you don't need to share. Exactly. All right, evy, thank you. Good advice there.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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