'Kidnapping' scam claims multiple victims
TAMPA (FOX 13) - It's a phone scam that leaves people shaken and scared, and there are more victims.
This week, a Tampa woman told us how her son, who's in college out of state, got a call saying she'd been kidnapped and would be killed if he didn't pay up.
And so, he did.
Now, a Tampa father tells us about a similar call. Only this time, the scammers threatened his daughter's life.
It seems like a problem that could be more widespread than originally thought. When FOX 13 posted this story on Facebook Wednesday, several bay area residents said they got the same terrifying call.
The similarities - two victims and two very similar nightmares -show this could be an organized group targeting Tampa.
RELATED: Scammers tell son his mom was kidnapped; steal $100s
Kelly Obrien’s son Sam was scammed out of $250 Saturday, after being told the money would save his “kidnapped” mother.
"They said, ‘If you get off the phone, we're going to hurt her. We’re going to kill her,’" O’Brien told us.
Just a day prior, Steve Yglesias got a call that his 23-year-old daughter Stephanie was being held hostage. He recalled a similar script from the scammers.
"If you hang up the phone we're going to kill her. We have a gun to her head," Yglesias told us.
But this time, the caller claimed Yglesias’ daughter hit his nephew with her car. They claimed they were holding her hostage so she would not call police officers, because they were wanted men.
They demanded $1,000 to get medical help for the injured boy.
"I was like, ‘Please, tell me where you're at and I'll come there! Let my daughter and your nephew out on the side of the road,’" Yglesias recalled telling the supposed kidnappers.
He says in that moment the threat felt very real.
In both cases the caller ID showed an 813 area code.
Despite being warned not to hang up - after five minutes, Yglesias took a chance and called 911.
Yglesias: Some guy just called me and said that he has my daughter hostage, and he wants $1,000.
Dispatcher: Have you called your daughter?
Yglesias: He wouldn't let me talk to her. He said that he got the number from her.
The dispatcher told Yglesias to call Stephanie, and when he did she answered. She was fine.
Tampa police suspect the scammers are finding phone numbers online and using spoofing apps to call their victims.
"You can get internet based telephone numbers and put in whatever area code that you want to choose," Tampa PD’s Eddy Durkin said.
And getting personal information - like family members’ names - just takes a quick search on social media, if you're not careful.
"If you want to be a little more secure, then keep some of your stuff private," Durkin suggested.
Police say in Yglesias' case, he did the right thing by staying calm and finding a way to call 911. They say you should also ask to speak to your relative.
Victims can stop by to file a report with a detective, but with spoof numbers, police say it's nearly impossible to catch these scammers.