Sheriff’s office: Phone scam targets parents in Washington county

Author: Ranji Sinha, KIRO

It’s a scam so real the King County Sheriff’s Office has issued a warning to parents. There have been two cases in the last four days of scammers saying they’ve kidnapped children. They demand a ransom in exchange for the child’s life. One mother got the call last Thursday only moments after leaving her children.

The King County Sheriff’s Office says a male or a younger-sounding female are the ones calling and making the claims they have kidnapped the target’s kids and won’t return them without money.

The sheriff’s office says on March 8 in the Ravensdale area of King County, a mother dropped her two children at the school bus in the morning.

A short time later she received a phone call from a blocked number.

The male caller, whom she described as having an accent, said he had her daughter and even used her real name even though he got the name wrong. He told the mother if she didn’t meet him with money, he would kill her child.

The sheriff’s office says the mother called her daughter’s school and confirmed her daughters were in school and safe.

Four days later, the KCSO says a man near White Center received a phone call from a blocked number.

This time a woman was on the other end of the line and said she had been kidnapped and that the suspect needed money for her release. The man, who asked to remain anonymous, said at first the phone call seemed extremely scary. The caller said his daughter was held hostage and the captors threatened to kill her. The father said he was terrified.

“I answered the phone and there was this little girl screaming that she needs help and she was like ‘help me daddy, help me daddy,’ which was really unsettling,” he said.

He says he eventually realized the call was fake. “It didn’t really sound like my daughter … a guy gets on tells me he’s with the Mexican Mafia and he’ll kill my daughter if I don’t give him cash How much cash is my daughter’s life worth? (He) wanted $100,000.

I don’t have $100,000 in cash?”

He says the caller used a blocked his number and demanded the father meet to drop the money. Later, he was able to verify his daughter was at school.

KCSO spokesperson Ryan Abbott says scammers have previously posed as IRS agents or jail staff and demanded money. He says the kidnapping scam that has appeared in the last week is new. “It’s a scary situation. It’s not one we’ve see out in this area,” Abbott says.

Abbott says even more worrisome is the fact that the kidnapping scam callers appeared to know details about the families they were targeting. “They’re able to figure out a first name somehow. Who knows how? It could have been something as simple as watching your social media. Make sure that you don’t have too much posted.”

The father admits he tried to keep the scammers on the phone to get info to police. “Once I found out it really wasn’t my daughter I got a little cocky and I think they caught on.”

The sheriff’s office says calling the children’s school may be one of the quickest ways for parents to verify the safety of their children if they are school age. They also say anyone who receives this call should call 911.

They said both parents who received the calls did the right thing when they confirmed with the school their kids were OK and called 911 to report it.

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