Scary stuff – Fake Phone Kidnapping Scams in Brazil.

Fake phone kidnapping scams in Brazil

Fake phone kidnapping scams are still very common in Brazil, making thousands of victims every year.

Hearing about it is one thing, but when it happens to you, it gets very real and kind of scary

A few days ago the phone rang and I picked up, introducing myself with a simple “alô” (you don’t say your name when you answer the phone in Brazil, I learned that soon after I arrived here). Someone was calling collect, which I thought was kind of strange, but maybe my father in law lost his phone and needed help so I didn’t hang up.

I have to say I wasn’t really prepared for what came next

I heard the voice of a girl on the other end of the line, and she was sobbing… “Pai, está me ouvindo, pai?” (Dad, do you hear me?). The image that I got in my head, was that of someone who just had an awful experience (like a car accident or lost a close family member), possibly in shock, and trying to call their father to talk about what happened… but, in the confusion, dialed the wrong number… which is understandable.

I didn’t answer immediately, and the girl continued: “Pai, sou eu” (Dad, it’s me), and when I (politely) said that I was pretty sure that she had the wrong number because I don’t have a daughter, the call stopped, leaving me with a feeling of: “WTF was that?”

I told my wife about the weird call and she simply said: “Baby, that was a “golpe (scam). WOW… so this was the phone kidnapping scam I heard so much about. Until I actually got one of these calls myself, I always felt like that kind of thing would never work on me, but now I can understand how some people get totally freaked out and end up paying the “kidnappers” serious money, only to find out afterwards that their relative was never really kidnapped.

This kind of scam has been going on in Brazil for many years, and apparently still makes a lot of victims. The fact that Brazil has a high number of real kidnappings makes it all the more believable.

Most of the time, like in my case I guess, the criminals call random numbers, and the sobbing person you hear is often just a recording, while the caller has some kind of “script” that he is working from. They count on the surprise effect, hoping that the person will panic and give away information (like the name of the “victim”) which the criminals then use in the further “negotiations”.

Other cases are more “sophisticated”. The criminals do their homework by “studying” the family they are targeting, to gather information about names and movements. At the right moment, they place a bogus call to the target’s mobile phone, pretending to be from the phone company, requesting the person to turn off their phone for at least an hour because “their phone had been cloned”.

They then call the family of the “victim”, who are made to believe their son/daughter had been kidnapped, and will be killed if they don’t pay within the hour. Since there is no way to call their loved one, have no choice but to pay up.

A lot of these criminals work from inside prisons, where they are not supposed to even have a mobile phone. the money is collected by helpers on the outside.

Have you, or someone you know, ever been victim of something like this? Leave a comment and tell me all about it.

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11 thoughts on “Scary stuff – Fake Phone Kidnapping Scams in Brazil.

  1. Never heard about this phone scam, heard more about Brazilian girlfriend scams when they do anything to convince there foreign boyfriend they are in love(to get as much personal information as possible) and then drug in many cases with a drug called ” Boa Noite Cinderella”, robb and in some cases even kill.

    • And still actual. I saw it on the news again this morning. A 69 y/o woman got a call saying that her daughter and her fiancee were kidnapped. She took the money and was on her way to the drop off place when the taxi driver noticed she was talking to kidnappers. After he dropped off the woman he called the police, who surrounded the area. Nobody showed up to take the money and the daughter was never kidnapped, but on tv the woman said that the voice on the phone was “exactly like her daughter’s”… scary indeed.

  2. I spent a couple of months in Brasil and loved the place. Street crime may be a problem in Rio, but scams can happen anywhere. I whacked a rascal in the side of the head with my walking stick on Ipanema Beach and found it a most satisfying experience. Would that we could do that with phone scammers. Or telemarketers in general.

    As a Belgian, have you written about your famous countryman Tintin? I am using Tintin to corrupt my grandson with the idea of travel. His father has some silly idea about him going into investment banking.

  3. Now that’s creative. These people figured out everything i suppose.:) You’re right though, the ordinary people are just trying to live their life, and that’s everywhere in the world.

    • Hey chris, hope all is well.
      The people that called my number obviously didn’t do their homework, but some of them do, and there’s at least one case of a person dying from a heart-attack after being informed that her son was being held hostage… Very unfortunate, but it’s part of Brazilian reality…

  4. What a story … I have already been confronted with scammers on the internet, but that’s just annoying and not scary like your experience? Do you in general feel safe in Brazil? Or do you want to come back to Belgium? 🙂

    • thx for your comment Ingrid…

      Going back to Belgium? Now THAT is a scary thought 🙂
      No, in general Brazil is as safe as the next country. I’m sure you have heard of a few places in Belgium where you better not show yourself after dusk, right? (“Borgerokko” in Atwerp, or some streets in Mechelen…)
      As long as you’re not involved in drugs or other criminal activities, Brazil is just a place where 99.9% of the people are only trying their best to lead a normal life and raise a family. Even the poor people that live in favelas.

  5. Hi Raf- This kind of stuff is horrible and because of this I never answer the phone if someone calls collect. One of my good (and very intelligent ) friends fell for it and only came to just before she paid the alleged kidnappers when her daughter called her and of course was perfectly safe. I think the best thing to do with anyone who is likely to call you collect is to tell them to phone you 3 times in succession at which point you will pick up. These guys never call back if they don’t get anywhere the first time.
    Cheers, Alison

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