Authorities think that scammers calling wealthy Southern Californians to demand thousands of dollars in exchange for the return of children who they falsely claim have been kidnapped have roots in Mexico, specifically in Mexican prisons.
Law enforcement sources familiar with the crime told NBC News that suspects are becoming more sophisticated as they evolve from using Spanish and targeting immigrants in the United States to using English and dialing up targets in gilded communities like California's Beverly Hills and Laguna Beach.
The FBI is investigating two recent cases of "virtual kidnapping" in Laguna Beach.
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"We do believe that phone calls are coming from out of the country, including Mexico, and that money transfers have been sent out of the country," said FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller.