ABINGTON (CBS) – South Shore parents are being targeted by a new and terrifying twist on an old scam.
According to Rockland and Abington Police there have been a number of reports of people receiving phone calls on their cell phones and being told their children have been kidnapped.
It was the most frightening phone call Joe in Abington had ever received. He was driving home from work when he got a call on his personal cell phone from a Puerto Rico number. The man on the other end of the line told Joe to listen carefully. “Your daughter is now here with us. She is collateral,” he said.
He knew details about Joe’s 16-year-old daughter and said there had been a car accident and that the girl was now being held hostage.
“He said to me, ‘I don’t know what we’re going to do to her. We’re going to kill her or we’re going to hurt her,’” Joe told WBZ-TV. “I thought she was in a lot of trouble at that point. I really did. I was scared.”
Joe did exactly what the man demanded. He was told to stay on the phone and to drive to the nearest Western Union. The man said he needed to wire a thousand dollars or Melissa would die.
For two hours, Joe drove around Abington keeping the scammer on the phone. The whole time, they kept making threats against his daughter’s life.
Then they demanded he wire another $500. Joe got angry and demanded to speak with his daughter. The man hung up.
Frantic, Joe called his wife. “Where is Melissa? She’s with me,” Joe recalls his wife answering. “I was scammed at that point. Now pure anger.”
The same scam artists had called Joe’s wife and daughter and told them Joe was the hostage.
Abington Police say three other residents received similar phone calls over the weekend.
In a police report from Rockland, police talk about “a rash of recent scams” on the South Shore involving kidnapping claims.
Police say the scams are sophisticated. The FBI is now compiling a list of the complaints and investigating.
“I can speak first hand. It is so convincing,” Joe says.
In the end, it cost him more than $1600 in just under two hours. “The mental anguish of them making me think my daughter was in that kind of danger was the worst part of the whole thing. Not the money,” he said.