Phone Scams: Why People Keep Falling for the Oldest Scam in the Book

It was 11 o’clock in the morning when Luann and Betty Ann’s world was shattered with a single phone call.

“He says, ‘Do you have a daughter or a son?’ And I said, ‘Yes, I have a daughter,’” Luann said. “And he said, ‘Oh boy, there’s been a terrible accident. Four cars at an intersection. Everyone is unconscious.’”

“He said, ‘What kind of car does she have?’ And I said, ‘It’s a Kia,’” she continued. “And he said, ‘Oh yeah, there’s a Kia here. She’s unconscious.’”

The two women, who asked that their full names not be used, didn’t know who the man on the phone was but, terrified for their daughter’s life, they jumped into their own car and headed out to look for her, staying on the phone with the stranger.

“I am thinking my daughter is laying on a highway somewhere unconscious,” Betty Ann said. “And the scariest part was we didn’t even know where she was. They wouldn’t say exactly where she was.”

But then, the story took an unexpected, and even more frightening, turn.

“I was like, ‘You have to tell me exactly where you are and what the hell is going on now,’” Luann said. “And then his whole demeanor changed and he was like, ‘Now you wait a minute. … We have her, at gunpoint, and we are going to shoot her if you don’t give me $1,700.’”

But what Luann and Betty Ann didn’t know at the time was that they were on the receiving end of a phone scam, where the latest tactic in an otherwise low-tech crime is for con artists to claim to have kidnapped a loved one and are holding them for ransom.

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