When this mother answered a call from her teenage daughter, she had no idea that her day was going to take such a traumatic turn.
A Familiar Voice
The voice on the other end was familiar, sounding just like her daughter’s— the inflection, the tone—everything matched.
The initial relief of hearing her daughter’s voice quickly turned into panic, as screams and cries for help echoed through the phone.
“Mom! I messed up!” exclaimed the girl on the line.
A State of Shock
In a state of shock, the woman anxiously questioned, “What did you do?!? What happened?!”
The situation escalated rapidly as a deep male voice took control, issuing chilling commands.
“Listen here. I have your daughter. You call the police, you call anybody, I’m gonna drop her off in Mexico, and you’re never going to see her again,” the man threatened.
Frozen in fear, the mother’s mind raced, and instinctively rushed into the nearby dance studio, desperate for help. Trembling and screaming, she felt as if she were drowning in a nightmarish reality.
The next few moments became a blur of chaotic events — a $1 million ransom demand, a frantic 911 call, and desperate attempts to reach her daughter.
But as the dust settled, the shocking truth emerged — it was all a scam.
A Cruel Hoax
Her daughter, unaware of the commotion, called her mother to express her confusion and assure her everything was fine.
The “kidnapping” was a cruel hoax, designed to instill terror and extract a hefty ransom.
For this mother, a resident of Arizona, those four minutes of terror and confusion would forever haunt her. The sound of her daughter’s voice, so familiar and unmistakable, was used as a weapon to manipulate her deepest fears.
“A mother knows her child,” she later reflected. “You can hear your child cry across the building, and you know it’s yours.”
A Common Scam on Unsuspecting Victims
The dispatcher who received the frantic 911 call quickly identified it as a hoax, a common scam that preys on unsuspecting victims.
Imposter scams have plagued unsuspecting individuals for years, with con artists using various tactics to exploit their victims’ emotions and extract money.
They may impersonate grandchildren in need of urgent financial assistance or utilize generic recordings of people screaming to simulate a distressing situation.
Recent schemes have taken a more sophisticated turn, using cloned voices as a common element.
Federal officials have raised concerns about the increasing sophistication of these scams, with voice cloning being made accessible through cheap and easily available artificial intelligence (AI) programs.
For as little as $5 a month, scammers can utilize AI software to clone voices and create snippets of dialogue that sound eerily similar to their supposed captives.
The prevalence of social media platforms allows these criminals to gather information about their targets, making their scams more convincing and difficult to detect.
Used Social Media Information
Her daughter, with her presence on social media through a private TikTok account and a public Instagram account showcasing her ski racing events, inadvertently provided a source of information for the scammers.
Although her followers primarily consisted of close friends and family, it was enough to create a chillingly realistic imposter scam.
“This happened to us! They called and it was my sister screaming and crying saying she would be taken to Mexico City. She was sitting right by me…” one parent recalled.
“As a dispatcher, this scam is soo common now. It can be extremely scary for the victims. We tell them to call their family member asap to confirm,” someone wrote.
“They did this to my parents. Said I was in a car accident,” another added.
Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Ground Picture. The people shown in the images are for illustrative purposes only, not the actual people featured in the story.