U.S. Marshals’ innovative search operation recovers 225 missing children
“Operation We Will Find You” has safely located and recovered 225 endangered missing children, including a 6-month-old infant. Led by the U.S. Marshals Service, which worked with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, the 10-week initiative was the first of its kind to involve state and local agencies in 15 areas with large clusters of critically missing children. Searches were conducted in Los Angeles County, San Bernardino County, and Riverside County areas from March 1 to May 15. According to law enforcement, more than 40 cases involved trafficking, and of the cases closed, 86 percent were endangered runaways.
Artificial intelligence increasingly makes kidnapping scams more believable
Imposter scams have been around for years, such as ones involving callers claiming a grandchild has been in an accident or robbed—and needs money. In those cases, would-be kidnappers pose as the grandchild or use generic recordings of someone screaming in the background. These attempts to extort money weren’t always successful, but federal officials are now warning about a new virtual kidnapping fraud that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to clone a loved one’s voice. AI programs are inexpensive, easily accessible, and can create good voice likenesses from just a few seconds of dialogue taken from social media posts. The FBI reports that most scam calls involving AI originate from Mexico and target Latin communities in the southwestern U.S. These sophisticated ruses can be successful, with fake kidnappers stealing an average of $11,000 from each victim. To avoid getting scammed, families are advised not to mention upcoming trips on social media or to give financial information to strangers on the phone. They also should create a family password or phrase that can help identify whether a kidnapping is legitimate.
Wisconsin police find missing child in 11 minutes with new ‘Project Lifesaver’
Police in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, were training to use a new technology called “Project Lifesaver” when an opportunity to effectively use it in real-time came with the report of an endangered missing child with a medical condition. Officers ended their training session and immediately began a search for the child, who to their relief, had previously been enrolled in the nonprofit Project Lifesaver program. The child was found in just 11 minutes using radio technology that tracks signals from a transmitter worn on the child’s wrist or ankle. The technology was developed to protect and locate “at risk” individuals with cognitive disorders and relies on specially trained search and rescue teams to use it. Beaver Dam police have been using the program since 2018, and the officers involved in locating the child are certified as electronic search specialists by the Project Lifesaver International organization.