Virtual Kidnappings, an Exploitation of Latinx Trauma.

To be quite honest, I am pretty angry right now. Late last year, my family was targeted in a nation-wide epidemic — a virtual kidnapping scam. At the time, I didn’t understand why I wasn’t immediately notified when my family thought my older brother had been kidnapped and was being tortured for ransom, but looking back, I am grateful they spared me the agony they went through.

And yes, I realize it seems silly to fall for such an outlandish scam but here is what you may not understand. Whoever is carrying out this virtual scam, is exploiting a very real trauma within the Latinx community. These scammers are not targeting just anyone, they are primarily targeting Spanish-speaking families because they know Latinx families fear the worst when it comes to drug-related kidnappings, both in and outside of the United States.

When my mom received the call, these virtual kidnappers knew my mother had a son, his name, and his work schedule to ensure he wasn’t home during the call. The man claimed my brother had befriended the wrong people, made a bad decision, and owed them money, which he was going to pay for with his life if she were to hang up or not comply with his demands. They even went as far to get someone on the phone who sounded like they were being tortured. My mom was so scared by the initial shock of everything, she temporarily went blind and had to hand the landline over to my dad as she frantically called my sister (a number she knows by heart) on her cell, to go to his work and look for him. The whole thing lasted about ten minutes and obviously, my brother is safe but the terror had already set in. We laugh about it now but in reality, I’M PISSED.

Families like my own, are targeted because people KNOW we constantly fear for violence against us. My family in the U.S. and Mexico aren’t associated with the cartel at all, but after constantly seeing all this BS on the news about KiLlER iLlEGaL IMmiGRaNTs, MS13, and all the crap Trump is causing by calling Mexicans drug dealers and rapists, even our own people are starting to believe that this racist rhetoric is true. How are we not supposed to believe it when the news and local officers immediately attribute the ordeal my family went through to prisoners calling in from Mexico…even when no investigation had been done?? Those men spoke both languages, but it is likely they are Americans due to their accent and use of Chicano slang. Further, they requested $10,000 in exchange for my brother’s life, so it is very likely there is someone in the Santa Barbara County area working with them (if they are Mexican prisoners) since there are legal restrictions for wiring large amounts of money across the border (something you would know if you had family in Mexico who you send money to). It’s just so infuriating because whether these people are from here or not, Latinxs will only be targeted even further as terrorizers when we are the ones being terrorized against.

Latinxs are already under so much pressure to prove our “worth” of citizenship and people still exploit the deepest of our fears for a quick buck. Shameful. And if you consider the United States’ history with Latinxs, the lack of urgency in trying to solve this issue isn’t surprising but still, disappointing. Virtual kidnapping scams targeted at Latinxs isn’t a petty crime like jailhouse jingles, it is terrorism.