BEWARE: Kidnapping Scam
Did you know that kidnapping scams are apparently on the rise right now?
To make it very clear, I am able to share this post and these tips because I was able to listen to the conversation after the fact. My office mate was able to record the phone conversation and after replaying the conversation, we were able to pin point areas that raised red flags that it was a scam.
As a parent, I can only imagine the fear that my office mate was experiencing while this was unfolding and while being wrapped up in the scenario, you aren’t thinking clearly or noticing the red flags that we picked up later.
PLEASE SHARE, this is a legit scam that per the 911 operator I spoke to, is happening frequently.
This event unfolded in my office, on July 10, 2019.
An international phone number called my office mate. Being an international number and a number that he did not recognize, he ignored it.
The same number called back again and, thinking it may be someone trying to actually reach him, he answered. A crying female was on the other end and upon calling him dad, stated she had been in an accident and then hung up.
The same, international number called back (for a 3rd time) and again, a crying female called my office mate dad and stated she had been in an accident. When my office mate asked who it was, she said ‘it’s me dad’. He again asked who it was and she again, in tears, said ‘it’s me dad. Your daughter, who else would it be.’ At this point, he stated her true name and she said ‘yes, it’s me XXX.’
After trying to get her to calm down and tell him what happened, a man came on the phone stating that my office mate’s daughter had heard gun shots and was shaken up so this man had taken her aside to calm her and have her call her dad in an attempt to not only calm her down, but to let her dad know she was okay.
At this point, my office mate exchanged pleasantries with the man on the phone – including exchanging first names – and thanked him for trying to help his daughter.
From this point forward, things got weird and quick.
The man on the phone, “Roger”, stated that my office mate’s daughter had witnessed a shoot out and that he had ‘pulled her into his car’ to calm her down. (In the thick of things, my office mate did not hear “pulled her into my car”. We did not catch this until after the fact when we re-listened to the phone call as it was recorded.)
After some back and forth, “Roger” stated that he had been involved in the shoot out and that he had an issue with the cops for the ‘way he makes money’. He indicated that my office mate’s daughter said she was going to call the cops and “Roger” told her she could not do that, so he took her.
“Roger” indicated he was in a shoot out with the police; that he had kidnapped my office mate’s daughter; that he was going to hurt her; that he wanted to meet up with my office mate to give him the daughter.
At some point, the conversation turned to “Roger” wanting money in exchange for my office mate’s daughter and that if my office mate was not going to cooperate, “Roger” was going to start cutting off body pieces of my office mate’s daughter and sending them to my office mate.
All in all, in the thick of the action, it sounded like a plausible kidnapping scenario. And as mentioned above, 911 stated this has been happening frequently.
Fortunately, while my office mate was on the phone with “Roger” (and after several attempts) I was able to get my office mate’s daughter on the phone to confirm that she was okay and that this was indeed a scam. (All the while, I was also on the phone with a 911 operator who was providing me ways to decipher if this was indeed a scam or not.)
Worse yet, after the conversation concluded with my office mate and “Roger”; my office mate’s wife was contacted by someone with the same narrative. My office mate’s wife thought it was their other daughter and of course, the scene unfolded all over again with her.
Here is what I learned:
How to Thwart a Kidnapping Scam
– Clearly if someone calls indicating they are your child and there was an accident, try to not say their name. Make them say it first.
In hindsight, listening to the recording, the female crying would only say “it’s me”, “dad”, “daddy”, “it’s your daughter”. She never once identified who she was by name and it wasn’t until my office mate asked if it was XXX that she said “yes, it’s XXX”. This gave them my office mate’s daughter’s real name and allowed the ruse to continue.
Obviously, I say try to not say their name because if your child calls you crying and upset; you want to comfort them. I can only say what I am saying because (a) I was an outsider watching the scene unfold and (b) we were able to listen to the recording of the call after the fact and can see things that were not seen while wrapped up in the fiasco at the time it happened.
On another note, a reader recommended using the wrong name with the caller. Obviously, if my child’s name is Jane, but I ask if it’s Laura and they agree – I can pretty much rule that it’s a scam because my child is Jane, not Laura. (Super clever and thanks for the idea Genie!)
– Ask “your child” questions that only they would know. It will help cut the scam short if they don’t know the answer or can’t answer the question correctly.
– Do not “feed” them information. Because my office mate’s daughter goes to school and lives in another area of the state, my office mate fed a location to “Roger” which allowed the ruse to continue.
During the conversation, “Roger” stated he was driving south. He wouldn’t give a starting location or where they were headed; he only said he was driving on the highway, headed south. It wasn’t until my office mate mentioned his daughter’s location that “Roger” started stating that he was in that area.
– Reach out to your child! Try calling your child, texting your child – continue to do so until you reach them or can confidently confirm that the phone call is a scam.
Luckily for my office mate, I was around when it happened so I was able to call his daughter. It took me 5 times before she answered, but I was able to reach her and confirm she was okay.
When the same scam call was made to his wife, she was driving and alone, but she drove to a local grocer and had them call my office mate to confirm the where about of the daughter she thought was in trouble. (Lucky for all of them, that particular daughter was at the office with us.)
– Ping your child’s phone. If you have the ability (apparently iPhones have an app), ping their cell phone to confirm or deny their location.
If you don’t have an iPhone, reader Genie to the rescue – “Android phones, if you have don’t have the GPS location turned off, and you have access to another device signed in to the same Google account – for instance my phone and my computer & tablet all are logged into the same google account – you can Google ‘Find My Phone’ and Google will allow you to track your phone’s location. (Make sure your kids know not to turn off their GPS or this will NOT work.)”
I know it is easier said than done, but try to remain calm. Gather facts. Try to throw the scammer off their game to ensure that it is a legit scam. Get the police involved if you have to.
This scam is cruel, but it is happening and people need to be aware of it. The more that know about this scam, the more we can help thwart it.
PS: My “office mate” has shared his own post as well as made the recordings of the phone calls public. You can read the post or listen to the recordings here.