Wendy Mueller displays the image her daughter texted to her when she feared her child had become the victim of an abduction last week. It was a scam. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

With reports of virtual kidnapping on the rise around the country, one Virginia police department has issued tips to help people avoid becoming a victim of these frightening scams.

Those who receive menacing calls from people posing as kidnappers are urged by the Prince William County Police to look for these indications of a scam:

— Incoming calls come from an outside area code or from these area codes: 787, 939 and 856.

— Calls do not come from the alleged kidnapped victim’s phone.

— Callers go to great lengths to keep you on the phone with them while demanding ransom.

— Callers prevent you from calling or locating the alleged kidnapped victim.

— Ransom money is only accepted via wire transfer.

The police department also suggests taking the following actions:

— Try to slow the situation down. Request to speak to the victim directly. Ask, “How do I know my loved one is okay?”

— If they don’t let you speak to the victim, ask them to describe the victim or describe the vehicle they drive.

— Listen carefully to the voice of the kidnapped victim if they speak.

— Try to call, text, or contact the victim via social media. Request that the victim call back from his or her cell phone.

— While staying on the line with alleged kidnappers, try to call the alleged kidnap victim from another phone.

— To buy time, repeat the caller’s request and tell them you are writing down the demand, or tell the caller you need time to get things moving.

— Don’t directly challenge or argue with the caller. Keep your voice low and steady.

— Request the victim call back from his or her cell phone.

— If you believe your family member is the victim of a real kidnapping, call 911 immediately.