SACRAMENTO -- The FBI is warning those who have family in Mexico or who travel there to beware of kidnappings and kidnapping scams.
Agents say such crimes are connected to may countries but they are focusing on Mexico because so many residents have loved ones there.
Several victims of violent kidnappings shared their experiences anonymously, including a man who was kidnapped with his father. He was shot and beaten.
His father died of a heart attack before his two-week ordeal ended with help from the FBI, which has agents in Mexico and coordinate with Mexican authorities.
Such incidents bring on cases of so-called virtual kidnappings as well. Special Agent Sean Ragan says people get phone calls claiming a loved one has been kidnapped and demanding money. They often pay in a panic.
"Their friend or loved one, family member, has not actually been kidnapped but by then the money's already paid," Ragan said.
Agent Jose Moreno says many more cases go unreported because criminals prey on the unreliability of Mexican authorities and choose not to contact authorities.
The immigration status of victims also prevents them from getting help. Agents say they disregard a victim's immigration status when taking on a case.
A woman whose husband was shot nine times in another kidnapping says the FBI was more helpful than local Mexican police in getting her husband released.
"Their support system, their help in bringing him back home, amazing," she said.
The FBI says potential victims who get kidnapping calls should stall and make checks on the loved ones to make sure they are indeed kidnapped. In any case, they should report the incident to the FBI.