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Local Mother Recounts Terrifying Kidnapping Scam That Spoofed Her Daughter's Cell Phone Number

By: KDKA-TV's Jessica Guay

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- A local mother is warning others about a phone scam after a stranger claimed he kidnapped her daughter and wanted ransom money.

It's called virtual kidnapping and one of KDKA's viewers said it was the most horrifying experience of her life. The woman said it seemed so real because when she got the call on her cell phone, it came up as her daughter calling.

The mother, who did not want to be identified, received the call at 4:25 a.m. Friday.

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

"I look over and it says my daughter's name so I pick it up," she said.

But it wasn't her daughter. She said she heard rumbling and then a man started to speak.

"He tells me he has my daughter and her name and her husband and says his name and that he has them at gunpoint and I need to listen to him and not hang up the phone and do what he says or he will kill them," the mother said.

His only demand was to send $1,500 to a Gmail account.

"He said you need to send it through Zelle. Go online and figure out how to open an account now, do it quickly or my daughter was going to die," she said.

The woman didn't know what to do, and it was all so convincing.

"He's screaming at me to hurry up, get this down and reminding me not to call the police. I hear rumbling in the background, almost as if someone is crying and I just did it," the woman said.

When the six-minute call ended, a local police department came to her house to speak with her and found her loved ones safe at home.

She said they even called her other daughter twice but she didn't answer.

Officials at the FBI's Pittsburgh Field Office told KDKA they've heard of virtual kidnapping and spoofing happening. The FBI believes most virtual kidnappings for ransom remain unreported and they do not keep statistics on that.

The woman called the FCC and her bank. She also filed a report with the FBI and local police.

"I want people to know that it's a scary thing. It's hard to know when it's real or when it isn't, especially when it's coming from a phone that you know and recognize. You don't know if it's a spoof and you have seconds to figure it out," she said.

FBI Pittsburgh shared some tips if you become a victim of this. Click here for more.

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