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Missing Persons Scam Hits North Texas

Scammers find missing individuals on flyers or social media and demand payment

The Garland Police Department is warning the public about a potential scam involving missing persons, and other posts of personal information on social media.

According to the Garland Police Department, officers recently responded to a case involving a missing person after the family received distressing calls from unknown individuals purporting to hold their loved one captive and demanding ransom. The missing person returned home safely, and the ransom demand was confirmed to be a hoax.

Garland police advise the public to exercise caution when sharing personal information about missing individuals on flyers or social media platforms, as scammers often exploit these situations. They typically operate through fake profiles, preying on emotionally vulnerable family members. However, these tactics are not new.

In 2021, the FBI released a public service announcement, warning citizens of the missing persons scam increasing across the country. According to the FBI, after identifying a missing person on social media, scammers research details of the disappearance, the missing person and the missing person's family.

The scammers often obtain telephone numbers for the family members on social media and use third-party calling or messaging applications to make ransom demands to disguise their true telephone numbers. The scammer generally requests between $5,000 and $10,000 in ransom.

These scams can also vary in specifics. The Plano Police Department told Local Profile a similar scam is seen in the city, especially this time of year. But this scam usually involves grandparents being told their grandchild was arrested in a popular spring break destination. These scams increase during the Spring Break period because of so many teens and young adults traveling.

If you believe you or someone you know is the target or victim of an extortion attempt related to a missing person:

  • Contact your local law enforcement agency or your local FBI field office (contact information can be found at
  • File a complaint online with the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center at
  • Victims are encouraged to keep all original documentation, emails, text messages and logs of communication with the subject. Do not delete anything before law enforcement is able to review it.

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