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Scammers target desperate Latino families whose migrant relatives are missing

VAN HORN, Texas — They are small warnings on Facebook, diluted between thousands of comments and hundreds of photos in online groups looking for missing migrants at the border. 

“Sir, remove your phone number from here,” one Facebook user advised another. “They will ask for money in exchange for information.”

“It is dangerous to put the number,” another person said. “In the networks there are scammers who do not feel the pain of the one who suffers.”

“Bad people profit from the pain of others,” another Facebook user wrote.

Criminal groups have targeted families searching for loved ones who disappeared at the border while migrating to the United States.

After seizing data and photos on their social networks, scammers stalk families on WhatsApp and by phone. They report alleged kidnappings of missing relatives, re-create false proof of life and ask for thousands of dollars for ransoms that will never occur.

Noticias Telemundo Investiga spoke, on camera and off camera, with several victims. They described scams that are fueled by the hope of finding lost migrant relatives, which manage to be credible due to the terrible reality near the border: Migrant kidnappings occur daily in the Mexican part, and disappearances have grown to proportions never seen in the past.

‘We have your family member’

Rocío Palate, a 47-year-old immigrant from Ecuador, said her heart skipped when she received the first WhatsApp message.

“We have your relative,” they wrote. She doubted,…

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