Disturbing New Phone Scam Makes Parents Think Their Kids Have Been Kidnapped

parents targeted by kidnapping scam
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The thought of our kids being kidnapped is so horrific that most parents can hardly imagine it. While we do a lot to make sure our kids are as safe as possible, those fears are always there. And according to recent reports out of Washington state, a scammer is praying on those fears by pretending to kidnap kids and demanding ransom from their parents.

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Last Thursday, mom Kelly Nelson took a call from a blocked number and heard a little girl crying out for her mother in the background. At first, she assumed it was a wrong number, then she had her worst nightmare realized. "And then a man got the phone and said, 'is this Kelly? We have Rebecca,'" she told KOMO. Rebecca, her 13-year-old daughter, had been safe and happy when Nelson dropped her and her sister off at their bus stop that morning. 

Nelson says that a man with an accent told her that he had kidnapped Rebecca and would hurt her if Kelly didn't didn't pay him. According to the mother, the man debated the ransom amount before finally settling on $500. As the "kidnapper" and Nelson debated a location point to exchange the ransom, the mother made a point to take careful notes so she could remember what he was saying. 

After she hung up, a frantic Nelson told her husband to call her daughters' school. School administrators were quickly able to confirm that the couple's daughters were safe and accounted for in their classes. After that, Kelly Nelson got the police involved. "Until I could say my kid was at school, I was just in panic mode," she said.

fake kidnapping scam
KOMO

She told KOMO that the "kidnapper" kept calling her phone for over an hour, making demands and false claims about Rebecca's safety. It was then that she began to notice some odd details about his story. First, Nelson said, the man didn't seem to actually know the area in Riverside, Washington -- the city where the Nelsons live -- where he wanted to meet up. Second, he kept referring to her using her maiden name, which she doesn't go by anymore. “I felt like a victim, and I’m angry about that,” Nelson said. “I don’t want to be a victim.”

While investigators are continuing to look into the situation, they say that Kelly Nelson isn't the only parent who has been targeted by these scammers. Only four days after the Nelson's were contacted, a dad in White Center, Washington, got a similar call from a blocked number. The unnamed man told police the call started off with a young girl saying she was in danger. Then, a man got on the phone and demanded money. Like Nelson, the father called his daughter's school and confirmed that she was safe before he called 911 and reported the scam.

Sgt. Ryan Abbott from the King County Sheriff's Office told KOMO that local police aren't sure if the scammer has targeted more than these two families. But they've issued an official warning to parents to stay alert just in case. "If it seems like a scam, if everything doesn't seem to add up, then you're probably right into another scam," he said. "Don't ever give them any personal information." If parents feel like they've been targeted by this scam, they should write down as much information about the call as they can remember, and immediately call the police to report it. 

parents targeted in kidnapping scam
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Abbott says that investigators believe the suspect is using social media to research potential victims and gather information about their children and where they live.  He says that people don't always think twice about the seemingly harmless information they share online that could be a goldmine for potential scammers. “Unfortunately, it’s not just kids, parents are guilty of having too much personal information online, too," he said.

Kelly Nelson is obviously relieved that her daughter's kidnapping turned out to be a hoax, and while she's ready to put the incident behind her, she never wants to feel the way she felt during that phone call again. "My girls are scared," she said. "We're going to take some self-defense classes. We’re not going to be afraid. I’m not going to let somebody like that scare me."

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