Virtual kidnapping is a method of false kidnapping that targets immigrants from Mexico, particularly.
The victims of virtual kidnapping receive a phone call from a random caller who tells them that one of their loved ones has been kidnapped, and then the caller asks for a ransom. Sometimes, someone will imitate the voice of the virtual “kidnap” victim, giving the listener even more reason to believe the kidnapping claim.
In reality, the loved one that has been kidnapped is completely safe, sometimes they have turned off their phone due to advisory from someone pretending to be from the phone company. Other times, they are just at school.
The false kidnapping scheme is quite similar to telemarketing – they have a script that they read, oftentimes, waiting until someone bites. The FBI released a podcast addressing the issue after Americans in Mexico started to become targets of the crime as well, noting that often, the caller is using a cell phone and is calling from one of the many penitentiaries in Mexico.