When an Arizona mom picked up a phone call from a Mexico number last Wednesday, she heard who she thought was her daughter screaming on the line.
The mother, identified only as Amy, told AZ Family:
“The voice on the other line was my daughter hysterically, frantically crying, begging me to help her, telling me she’s been in an accident.”
But now she’s warning of a “kidnapping scam,” after discovering the voice wasn’t her daughter’s at all.
Amy also spoke to a man called “Pedro,” who demanded that she send him money or risk her daughter being harmed. The mom said:
“He was very intimidating from the first second he spoke, saying shut up, just listen.”
“I’ll chop her fingers off, wrap them in her panties and send them to you.”
The mom said it was a “perfect storm” because her daughter wasn’t answering her text messages at the time.
The man asked for Amy’s cross streets and directed her to the nearest Western Union, so that she could “wire money to Mexico,” she told AZ Family.
She then went to Western Union and Bank of America to send the man $1,200.
Afterwards, Amy discovered that her daughter was actually safe and sound. Now, she’s warning others about the scam:
“I don’t think I’m someone that’s going to fall for scams like that, but I’d go to the ends of the earth for my child.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) refers to scams like this as “virtual kidnappings,” because nobody is physically taken.
Many of these schemes originate from inside Mexican prisons, according to the FBI. Amounts are usually under $2,000, in order to avoid laws that restrict large money transfers over borders.
If called by a “virtual kidnapper,” keep calm and listen to the victim’s voice carefully, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
You should also try to contact the victim on another phone or ask the person calling to describe them.
But most important, get in contact with authorities.
The FBI has not confirmed they are investigating Amy’s case of “virtual kidnapping.”