Let me preface this post with this comment :
‘Yesterday marked the realization of a mother’s worst nightmare [almost]. Regardless of what people tell you, parents of gay children aren’t mad they are gay, they are worried that they will be bullied, picked on, kidnapped, beaten or killed.’
I was driving home from the store early evening and I received a call from my sons’ phone. A couple of [sounded like] black men told me they had my son and wanted money to release him or they would kill him. They told me they met him on a chat line and when they realized he was gay, they kidnapped him, taped his mouth and wanted recompense for the insult on their straight sexuality.
They told me to drive to the nearest store and get some ‘moneypak’ debit cards, $500 on 5 cards to be exact. I told them I wanted to hear my son, they made a big deal of getting the tape off his mouth and I did hear my son say ‘mom, mom, hello, hello?’
They said they were on the north end of town and would release him after I did what they told me to do. I was to go into the store, get the card and read them the numbers off the back.
I need to enforce to you the detail of which these guys went into their story-telling. They were talking to each other about getting my son in the back seat of the car and deciding on the best way to rendezvous with me after I did what I was told. I even heard a high-pitched scream in the background. I was distraught, to say the least. I made it to the store. They would not let me hang up and keep telling me all the ways they would hurt my son if I hung up or tried any funny business.
I wrote a note on a piece of paper and handed to the first person at the customer service desk at a big chain market. MY SON MAY HAVE BEEN KIDNAPPED CALL 911, TELL THEM TO SEND A CONCEALED CAR HERE.
The kidnappers made it sound like they would know if the cops came. The phone kept disconnecting and they would call back and yell at me for trying funny business. One of the clerks knew about scams that ask for this certain type of card and wouldn’t let me pay for any of them, one was on the phone to 911, one was talking loud to me, keeping me up to date on why it was taking so long to process. [so the ‘kidnappers’ could hear]. I wrote another note to call my sons work to see if he was there. He was not.
When the police came I was sitting in an eating area and was trying to phone all my sons friends. No one would answer the phone, and the ‘kidnappers’ kept calling, getting angrier with each call. The police officer wouldn’t let me buy cards either. During this time the kidnappers asked me if this made any sense “Please take care of Orange Julius for me”. They said my son said that. I freaked! [that is his cats name, and of course I thought my son was saying that like after he got killed I was to care for his cat!] Then I heard his voice again, but it repeated the same words ‘mom, mom, hello, hi?’
I finally had to stop answering their calls because I was trying to contact my sons’ friends and getting addresses for the police to drive to, to see if son was there. I couldn’t figure out where they were getting their information and didn’t know if they had my sons phone. I was telling the officers that I really didn’t care if it was a scam at this point, they were getting my money, they had too many facts about my son.
When I answered one of their calls, I asked them to ask my son what movie we were going to watch that night and seconds later, after making a great imitation of asking him, they said the right movie!!! FREAKED OUT!
I managed to get a hold of 3 friends. Sent them out in all directions looking for son. Police sent units to his boyfriend’s house, son’s place of work and was going to our home, but I got a friend who lived close by to check the house. No one at any location.
Everyone was texting and calling my son, but he wouldn’t answer. You’ll know why in a minute.
I am shaking as I write this, but I need to get it out of head, onto ‘paper’. UPDATE: 2 days later and I still can’t shake this. I’m paralyzed by the ‘what-ifs’ and how to stop these assphats.
The police were asking me all kinds of questions; does your son do drugs, has he been trouble lately? Where would he go? [he was going to work and his boyfriend’s house, then was to come home]
The boy just graduated college, and since he moved back in a month ago, all he has done is school, work, home. He is as boring as it comes, but then again, mothers don’t always know all of what their kids do. I got a call from a friend saying son left work at 4:30 pm and told a co-worker, “I have jury duty, I need to take care something, I will come back and clean my desk’’. That was last anyone had heard from him.
The last call I picked up from the ‘kidnappers’ they asked if I had the cards and they were going to send me a video. I told them I did not have the cards and they said, “ok then, goodbye”.
After what seemed like eternity, my son calls crying, “I think I did something bad, I think I got stabbed’’ [he didn’t say stabbed, but that’s what I heard] I asked him if he was alone, and he said yes. I told him to go his work and stay there. That I would be there as soon as I could. I told all his friends the same thing, get to the workplace, son is on his way, keep him there, the police and I will be there soon.
So, come to find out my son was being scammed at the same time I was!!!!!
He received a phone call from an unknown number and googled it. It was the county sheriff’s office number. He called them back and was told in a very professional manner he had a warrant out for his arrest since he missed jury duty [son has never had jury duty nor knows what all that entails] and he needed to pay the fine, so he would not get arrested. They kept him on the phone and told him to keep telling them his mileage, they knew when he pulled over, when he got out of the car. He went to 3 different stores and all of them let him get these certain cards to put money on. The ‘sheriff’s office’ even told him to call his bank and tell them it was really him making these withdrawals. Their elaborate story included southern accents, first a man, then transferred to a woman with soothing words but stating if my son hung up or didn’t do as they said, a cop would come immediately and arrest him. They asked for an emergency contact and he gave my name and number. They asked if there was something I would know as a secret security measure and he told them ‘Orange Julius’.
They had him running around for about 3 hours. At one point they had him park in front of the county courthouse to finalize the warrant freeze, but because they told him a police officer would arrest him if he was found, he didn’t go inside. They were so professional and knew exactly how the law worked in warrants and son didn’t know enough about it to refute them. At one point they asked him if there was another secret security measure they could use for me, asking about something we both know, like a favorite movie. He said Blade Trinity.
THEY WERE ACTUALLY ON THE PHONE WITH US BOTH AND PLAYING US BOTH!
My son said he heard me say, ‘’son, son, where are you, are you ok?’’. Not actaully sure how they made that happen, but it was very convincing. He was told after he got the cards he was to scratch off the numbers on the back and read them off to them and that would zero out his account with the sheriff dept and drop the charges. After he did that, they hung up.
That is when he called me. We all met at his workplace and hugged and cried and talked to the police. I guess this series of scams comes in a few forms. IRS back taxes, kidnapping and warrants. We got hit with two. They got money from son. None from me, only thanks to the calm, informed people at the grocery store and the police.
It was awful. And terrifying. And very violating.
I’m still contemplating going to the news, I really want people, especially people in retail, to know about these scams and not even carry these types of cards in their stores. The way the cards are set up [not having to be physically present to access money] are the perfect storm for cyber fraud.
Update, we decided we need to get this out so other’s won’t be put in this situation. Please share this. Please ask your stores to not sell these types of cards. Please inform any retail worker friends you know not to sell anyone these types of cards, especially if they are on the phone.