Leslie found a way to keep the man on the line, and buy herself some time as she made up lies to stall the caller, saying she had just woken up, she’d need to get dressed, find her missing car keys and get withdrawal slips.
In the meantime she used the landline to call her husband at work.
When he answered, Leslie held her cell phone up to the handset, then spoke straight to the “purported kidnapper” so her husband would be clued in.
“I repeated, ‘I don’t believe you have my daughter. I want proof. I want to hear my daughter’s voice,’” she explained. “That’s what helped my husband figure out what was going on.”
Upon hearing her words, Leslie’s husband jumped into action. He whispered that he would call the school, and within minutes was able to confirm that their daughter was safe. He then called the police.
Leslie kept the caller, who claimed to be watching her, on the phone until police arrived at her home. After spewing an embarrassing amount of curse words at the officer and Leslie, the spammer hung up.
To her surprise, police told Leslie there was nothing they could do about the phone call, or the fact that this person was claiming to have kidnapped a child. Of course, had Leslie’s daughter actually been kidnapped, they said “they’d move heaven and earth to trace the call.”
At the end of the 20-minute fiasco, Leslie reflected on what she could do to better protect herself and her family from perpetrators—both real and fake.
“I feel like I haven’t been taking care of her well enough online,” she said, explaining that it’s not uncommon for her to post photos and videos of her young daughter on social media because they have family who do not live close by. When asked why she believed she was chosen as a target, the mother mentioned her frequent Facebook posts.
Her concerns are valid, and as parents, we need to be intentional about what we share online. But this could have happened to any of us, and it has happened to many of us. I was once told I had missed Jury Duty and would need to pay a massive fine or turn myself in and do jail-time. The scams are new every day, and we are all targets.
The good news is, according to the FBI, there are a number of ways to protect yourself from falling victim to one of these stressful scams.
Indicators of a scam, and how to handle one
Suspect a scam if:
• Incoming demand calls come from an outside area code, sometimes from Puerto Rico with area codes (787), (939) and (856).
• Calls do not come from the purported kidnapped victim’s phone.
• Callers go to great lengths to keep targets on the phone.
• Callers prevent targets from calling or locating the “kidnapped” victim.
• Caller will only accept ransom money through a wire transfer service.
Anyone receiving a phone call seeking ransom for a supposed kidnapped victim should:
• Try to slow the situation down. Ask to speak to the victim directly. Ask, “How do I know my loved one is OK?”
• If the caller won’t let you speak to the “victim,” ask them to describe the victim or describe the vehicle they drive, if applicable.
• Listen carefully to the voice of the kidnap “victim” if they speak.
• Try to call, text or contact the “victim” by social media. Ask the “victim” to call back from his or her cell phone.
• While staying on the line with supposed kidnappers, try to call the “victim” from another 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 directly challenge or argue with the caller. Keep your voice low and steady.
Source: FBI website
Leslie’s experience with the scammer is just another example of the many ways we can become victims of our own technology. Be smart, be prepared and be alert, because their next phone call could easily come to you.