Phone Scammers Tell Woman They Have Her Dad Hostage (Spoiler: They’re Lying)

Phone-based scammers have traditionally employed techniques that either prey upon a victim’s greed — “You’ve won a new car! Just pay the taxes to us now and it’ll be yours” — or protective instincts — “Your grandson is in a hospital in Belarus and needs money ASAP to get treatment” — but these criminals are increasingly using fear to wring cash out of unsuspecting folks.

A few months ago we told you about scammers calling in bogus bomb threats to retail stores, demanding money to not set the (nonexistent) devices off. Now comes the story of a Pennsylvania woman who was conned out of $1,000 by a caller who claimed he was holding her father hostage.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the 23-year-old woman recently received a call on her cellphone.

“We have your dad hostage,” screamed the voice on the other end of the line. “Leave work right now.”

The caller told her that he and her father had been in a car accident, but that her dad had refused to provide insurance information or be cooperative. And so the caller had taken him hostage and claimed to be holding him hostage at gunpoint until he received $1,000 to pay for damage to his vehicle.

“I had to swear that if I wept or cried or got anyone’s attention, they would come to my house and kill my family,” she recalls. “I had to continue to talk to him.”

She was told to leave work and go to a MoneyGram wire transfer location, where she was to send the money to a woman in Puerto Rico. Not knowing what else to do, she followed their instructions.

After the money had been wired, the caller instructed the woman to go to a nearby hospital and circle around the building without parking. He did not make good on his promise to let her speak to her father, and the illusion of the scam came crashing down when the caller said that her dad had driven away in his truck… because he doesn’t own a truck.

“Now I am thinking, this is a scam,” she tells the Inquirer.

And she was right, as her pops had not been in any sort of auto accident or taken hostage. He’d been safely working away at his job, which she would have found out had the scammers not been so successful in keeping her on the line.

Police believe the same caller recently failed at a similar shakedown attempt with another area woman, and say this type of scam has been popping up all over the region, with some 100+ victims up in the Boston area.

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  1. BikerGeek79 says:

    1. “Where did you get this number?”
    They’ll probably say something like “from ____’s cell phone.”

    2. “Then hang up and call me from that phone.”

    3. They will hang up and never call you back. Because they don’t have that phone.

    So, even though you might be scared, even if you think “well, even though this is probably a scam, what if it were real? Do I want to take the chance and mess with these people?” Remember that real kidnappers have a different objective than scammers. Real kidnappers want to trade your relative for your money, and they’ll be willing to play ball a little bit to make that happen. Scammers just want your money with no tradeoff, so they’ll use scare tactics, be adamant about not letting your hear your relative, etc. So don’t be afraid to push a button or two to find out the difference.

    most smartphones these days are capable of three-way calling. Simply say “Hang on I have another call coming in…” and then call whatever relative they claim to have kidnapped.