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I-Team: Kidnapping scam targeting families of missing people

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CLEVELAND-- The FOX 8 I-Team has found con men targeting families of missing people.

It happened to a Cleveland man this month as he searched for his 13-year-old son when the boy went missing.

Miguel Gonzalez showed us alarming text messages that mysteriously showed up in his phone.

One text read, “This is to let you know that your son was kidnapped…and we demand a ransom payment of $3,000 before we release him. You are warned not to tell anyone or the Cops….Or HE DIES.”

The child’s father told us, “At first, like any parent, I got scared.” He added, “It’s a very sensitive situation because at that point, my son’s not home, and it put me in panic mode.”

Gonzalez responded to the text messages. They also said his son was in bad shape.

But the father didn’t pay ransom. He told Cleveland Police Second District detectives.

The first payment was demanded in gift cards. Investigators found it was a scam. Law enforcement now starting to see this again and again targeting families of missing people. Investigators believe the scam is possibly the work of con men out of the country. Scam artists simply hitting on people who are posting online about missing loved ones.

The 13-year-old son of Miguel Gonzalez disappeared for days, and the case was even featured in a FOX 8 missing person’s segment with Amanda Berry.

Amanda spent ten years as a hostage in Cleveland before she escaped. She read the text messages in this case and thought back to her own family searching for her.

She said, "This is so scary. I know if my mom got that, gosh I don’t know how she would have felt.” She added, "This is insane to me this has gone this far. And I just hope that we can find this, and find these people, and somehow stop this."

Gonzalez spoke out about this to alert the community. Any family could be next and hit at the worst time.

He said, "Reach out to the cops or somebody that could help. Treat it serious because you never know."

Police are still sorting out all that was involved in the disappearance of the teen. But he lives with his father, and he is back there now.

During the investigation into the text messages, Gonzalez was told a trace showed ties to a phone app in Canada and possibly other parts of the world.

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