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Police warn of ‘terrifying’ phone scam targeting parents

Police warn of ‘terrifying’ phone scam targeting parents

The scammer tells the parent or grandparent that their loved one has been kidnapped and demands a large sum of money over the phone in exchange for their family member’s safe return.

The scheme isn’t new, but several police departments have recently received reports from concerned parents.

A woman in Philadelphia told her local news station, FOX29, she received a similar call last week from an area code in Mexico. Mindi Stein said the scariest part is that the scammer mentioned her daughter by name.

“All of a sudden, a girl gets on the phone and (she's) hysterically crying, saying: ‘Mommy, I'm really, really scared. Help me, they're throwing me into a van,'" Stein explained. "The man gets back on the phone and he's like, 'Give me money now or I'm going to start chopping off her fingers.'”

Stein said if her daughter had not been at home sick , she may have believed it.

In a separate incident in Florida, a man named Patrick McDonald said he received a threatening phone call from someone also claiming to have kidnapped his daughter, WTXL reported.

"'Hey buddy, I have your daughter. I've kidnapped her and it's going to cost you a lot of money,'" McDonald said the man told him.

McDonald said the phone call felt like it lasted a lifetime, and at one point the scammer threatened to kill his child. However, the dad called his daughter’s school to confirm she was safe.

Meanwhile, the King County Sheriff’s Office in Washington state is warning the public to never provide money to anyone over the phone, and to call police if they have any questions or concerns.

How to avoid the scam

According to the FBI, the success of any type of virtual kidnapping scheme depends on speed and fear. Criminals know they only have a short time to exact a ransom before the victims unravel the scam or authorities become involved.

To avoid becoming a victim, look for these possible indicators:

  • In most cases, the best course of action is to simply hang up the phone.
  • If you do engage the caller, don’t call out your loved one’s name.
  • Try to slow the situation down. Request to speak to your family member directly. Ask,
  • “How do I know my loved one is okay?”
  • Ask questions only the alleged kidnap victim would know, such as the name of a pet.
  • Avoid sharing information about yourself or your family.
  • Listen carefully to the voice of the alleged victim if they speak.
  • Attempt to contact the alleged victim via phone, text, or social media, and request that they call back from their cell 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 agree to pay a ransom, by wire or in person. Delivering money in person can be dangerous.

For more information, click here or visit

Copyright 2018 Meredith Corporation. All rights reserved.

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Saturday, 15 June 2024

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