AUSTIN, Texas - When a family is dealing with a missing child, it can be an emotional time for everyone involved. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) is warning about ways scammers might use those situations to rip people off.
NCMEC says they've seen cases of scammers targeting parents of missing children, using personal phone numbers or information to make it seem like they know where their child is.
"We have seen that has caught the attention of scammers who will demand a ransom, but it actually turns out to be a hoax. They're really preying on the vulnerability of a parent whose pretty frantic and looking for their child," Leemie Kahng-Sofer, director of case management with the Missing Children Division at NCMEC, said.
Since 2020, NCMEC has been aware of about 50 of these types of scams, but there may be more unreported ones.
They encourage families to rely on them to make posters. If you make your own, try not to put your personal information on it and opt for the number of the investigating agency.
MORE MISSING IN TEXAS STORIES:
- Fort Worth murder suspect tracked down in Austin two years after alleged crime
- Bastrop Co. woman hopes granddaughter will come home after running away
- TCSO investigating decades-old cold cases of unidentified victims
Another danger is fake missing child posters.
"Probably for scam purposes, if people share a poster, a scammer might edit the post with phishing links. It's a way to access people's personal information while using a topic that really pulls at people's heartstrings," Kahng-Sofer said.
NCMEC says red flags include if the information doesn't come from them or a law enforcement agency, if there are lots of errors, or doesn't tell you how to take action.
"An overall societal risk is that it has the potential of diluting the importance of the missing child issue," Kahng-Sofer said.
Experts say after a child is found, it's important to take down the missing posters to protect the child's privacy.