The rate of "virtual" kidnappings and other phone extortion schemes is on the rise, with between 6000 and 8000 reported per year, including five per day in Mexico City alone. The modus operandi often consists of the perpetrator telephoning victims (pretending to be a foreigner) to falsely inform them that a friend or family member has been kidnapped and to demand a ransom for his/her release. Some 20,000 such calls are believed to be made each year, often by gang members or individuals posing as gang or cartel members.
Extortion is the second-most common crime in Mexico, followed by fraud. According to one estimate, there are 9850 cases of extortion per 100,000 inhabitants on a yearly basis, with nearly 95 percent of these extortion attempts conducted via telephone. The states most heavily affected by the phenomenon are Guerrero, Estado de México (which surrounds the capital Mexico City), and Baja California.
Individuals in Mexico are advised to remain vigilant regarding this threat and to be cautious regarding the sharing of personal information on social networking sites and with strangers more generally. In the event of a suspicious call, remain calm; ask to speak directly to the supposed kidnapping victim, ask the caller to describe the supposed victim (or his or her vehicle), and attempt to contact the victim directly (via SMS, social networking sites, etc.).