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Crooks Threaten Mother's Safety in Virtual-Kidnapping Scam

Jeremy Vincent is awakened by a call believed to be a loved one, and instead gets the scare of a lifetime

A graphic image for episode 92 of The Perfect Scam

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In the middle of the night, Jeremy Vincent is awakened by a call from his mother’s number. When he answers, he’s shocked to hear a man’s voice on the other end threatening to harm his mother — who lives thousands of miles away in rural Missouri — if Jeremy doesn’t send money. After an agonizing back-and-forth exchange, Jeremy panics and hangs up, calling 911 despite the callers’ warnings. Officers are sent to the home of his mother, where, luckily, they find her safe and well. It is a virtual kidnapping scam.

Quote graphic for epsiode 92

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(MUSIC SEGUE)

[00:00:01] Bob: This week on The Perfect Scam.

[00:00:02] I got a phone call around midnight. He said I had nothing to lose, don't you dare call the cops. If you call the cops, I'll kill her.

(MUSIC SEGUE)

[00:00:14] Bob: Welcome back to The Perfect Scam. I'm your host, Bob Sullivan. Today a son is woken up in the middle of the night by a call his smartphone tells him is from Mom's Cell. But when a groggy Jeremy Vincent answers that call, he doesn't hear his mom's voice, instead he gets the scare of a lifetime.

[00:00:36] Jeremy Vincent: I lived in an apartment in Tallahassee by myself at the time, and it was a Saturday night. I went to bed at a normal time, I don't know, maybe 10 or 11 or so, and I think that I got a phone call around midnight, probably just after midnight, but it said, you know, Mom's Cell. And I thought, well that's pretty odd. My mom wouldn't call me after midnight unless something was up. And whenever I answered it, it wasn't her, it was, it was a man, a voice that I didn't know. And that's strange because my mom lives alone. She and my dad divorced when I was fairly young. It took me a minute to try to understand what was going on.

Q:        It doesn't help that Jeremy heard only strange rumblings for a few moments coming from the other line, but then the caller gets very aggressive.

[00:01:24] Jeremy Vincent: He didn't sound old, but he didn't sound, how shall I say, sober. Whenever I answered the phone, nobody said anything right away. It took a minute. It sounded like somebody was talking but not to me and not into the phone. I had to say hello a few times before he spoke.

Q:        And what was the first thing he said?

[00:01:44] Jeremy Vincent: The first that he said was, "I'm going to let you talk to your mom, your mom's okay, I'm going to let you talk to her. She's tied up here, and I just want you to know, um, if you don't send us money, I'm going to kill your mom."

[00:02:00] Bob: Oh my God.

[00:02:02] Bob: I'm going to kill your mom. The words ring out in Jeremy's still groggy head. A lot of things go through your mind at a time like this. A million thoughts about family, about growing up in Missouri, about what to do. Jeremy is very close to his mom, Kathy Vincent, even though he now lives 1,000 miles away in Florida. Mom lives in the I-44 corridor town of Rolla, Missouri, a small place on the drive between St. Louis and Oklahoma City. She's only been in Rolla about five years. She moved there after Jeremy and his older brother left home. They grew up just outside St. Louis.

[00:02:44] Jeremy Vincent: So we grew up in what is actually a small town in Villa Ridge, Missouri. It's near um, it's not far from Eureka, so the Six Flags area on the outside of St. Louis.

[00:02:56] Bob: Oh yeah, sure.

[00:02:59] Bob: Kathy Vincent was a really involved mom.

[00:03:02] Jeremy Vincent: I was a pretty active kid, so I was always outdoors. Whenever I was young, she was always kind of a, one of the mothers that helped out with school, you know, get togethers. Um, there are always a few parents that kind of will help plan the school class Christmas party or the Halloween party or the Thanksgiving, you know, party, whatever they do in, in elementary school. And she was always that parent. Um, she was also one of like the den mothers of Cub Scouts, so she was very involved, um, in my childhood, and she was always, you know, more so than my friends' parents. She was also, always had a very active role, you know, during my childhood.

[00:03:45] Bob: She sounds like the class mom.

[00:03:47] Jeremy Vincent: Yeah, she was, and she was equally involved in like sports that I, that I took part in. I played hockey, you know, as a youth, uh those kinds of things. She was always very involved in that.

[00:04:00] Bob: She's a hockey mom. That explains a lot, yeah.

[00:04:03] Jeremy Vincent: Yeah, she was for both my brother and I, in fact, yeah, she was a hockey mom, she was a, really every sport that we did, up until we were kind of old enough to start driving ourselves to things. So right, like up until high school, she was, she was at every single game, every get together that we had.

[00:04:23] Bob: How nice. Hocky mom to me means a lot of 5 am mornings at the rink.

[00:04:28] Jeremy Vincent: A lot of that, yeah, and we, you know, in the little town of Villa Ridge, we didn't have a rink nearby, so we had to drive about an hour each way.

[00:04:38] Bob: Work brought Jeremy to Florida. Jeremy has a pretty challenging job.

[00:04:44] Jeremy Vincent: Well I work with folks who are accused of committing serious crimes, so felonies. They also have mental illnesses, so typically people are sent to the hospital that I work in whenever a crime's been committed, it's alleged to have been by them, they have a felony pending, and they have an untreated mental illness. So a lot of folks that we get aren't entirely stable.

[00:05:10] Bob: Still he finds time to talk with his mom often.

[00:05:12] Jeremy Vincent: We're pretty close. I mean we're probably as close as you know most of my friends are with their parents. We try to, since we don't live in the same area, we try to at least talk fairly regularly. Uh if we're not, you know, on the phone, we're texting fairly, just you know, we, we stay in communication.

[00:05:30] Bob: In fact, he'd been on the phone with his mom only a few hours before that terrifying Saturday night call wakes him up out of a deep sleep. As Jeremy tries to get the cobwebs out of his mind, he tries to process what he's hearing.

[00:05:45] Jeremy Vincent: He said, "I have nothing to lose. Don't you dare call the cops." But yeah, within, this was all within about 30 seconds of picking up the phone. Like, "If you call the cops, I'll kill her." At that point I'm kind of thinking like, well what's the best course of action here? But I'm also still trying to wake up, and I've never had a phone call like this. So it was pretty alarming.

[00:06:07] Bob: Alarming seems like an understatement to me.

[00:06:10] Jeremy Vincent: Yeah, I mean I recall my, my heart was pretty instantly like beating out of my chest. And I work with, I work in a forensic hospital, like it's not, it's not a, it's a pretty typical day if somebody takes a swing at me, you know. So it's, yeah, this is, this was uh, for, for me to get alarmed, it takes quite a bit.

[00:06:33] Bob: So what was your response?

[00:06:34] Jeremy Vincent: Uh, well I, my immediate thought to them was to keep them on the phone, 'cause I wanted to try to gather some information. And one of the first questions I, I asked was, "Okay, so how much money do you want?" They had no idea. They didn't, they didn't have an answer to that question, nor did they have any idea of how, of what avenue of payment they wanted. I say "they" because there ended up being two, two men. So the first gentleman that, that I spoke with, he seemed like the less organized of the two, because he was demanding money in exchange for, you know, my mom's well-being; however, whenever I offer, whenever I asked how to pay him, he didn't, he couldn't answer. So, eventually we agreed on Venmo, because I had the Venmo app on my phone, and he was familiar with Venmo, but then he tried to change it to something else. And I said, "Do you, do you have anyone there with you that I can talk to?" Now the second guy that I spoke with was more reasonable, and he was much nicer. He continued to tell me that he wanted money, and they were going to work it out by Venmo, and he asked how much I had.

[00:07:55] Bob: So the fact that they were so disorganized in this way, did that give you comfort, or did that, did that make you more worried?

[00:08:02] Jeremy Vincent: No, it was, so it worried me in the sense that I, that almost seems like a scenario of somebody who actually had somebody captive, because I would think that they would be highly emotional, too, in that situation. Whereas if it was some sort of a scam, I would think that they would be much more calm, and they would kind of have a game plan. They didn't seem to have much of a game plan. I don't know if I just had people that weren't very good at this, or if I was asking them too many questions.

[00:08:32] Bob: A few moments in, his training as a counselor and as someone who deals with criminals kicks in and helps.

[00:08:39] Bob: So you're going back and forth, you're kind of negotiating in a way, right? Did you ever settle on, on an amount?

[00:08:44] Jeremy Vincent: No. well no, I tried, I was trying to negotiate with them, but I was also trying to buy time and get information. I'm a psychologist by trade, so that's just kind of who I am. I'm going to ask a, a lot of questions. I mean if you present me with kind of a, a novel situation, I'm, that's my go-to is just to ask questions. So I started asking a lot of questions, and my thought was, let me wake up, let me buy time, kind of thing.

[00:09:10] Bob: But as the conversation goes on, and Jeremy's wits start to kick in, he realizes something is strange. Strange enough, but he decides to take a big risk.

(MUSIC SEGUE)

[00:09:27] Jeremy Vincent: It was around that time that I realized, oh wait, my mom has dogs. Why aren't dogs barking? So, that was when I hung up, and I called the police.

[00:09:39] Bob: He clicks down the phone thinking he might only have a few moments to act.

[00:09:44] Jeremy Vincent: You know, whenever it happened, and then I hung up the phone, and I called, I just called 9-1-1, 'cause, you know, who else do you call? And I didn't realize that 9-1-1 was going to bring me to where my phone was registered which is Tallahassee, Florida, so then I had to get off the phone with them and call the Rolla Police Department.

(phone ring)

[00:10:10] Bob: So he dials Missouri and gets the police there. He has to explain the situation all over again.

[00:10:15] Jeremy Vincent: I don't even think it was midnight yet, Missouri time, actually. It might have been before then.

[00:10:18] Bob: I'm picturing now the Rolla Police Department at about midnight on a Saturday night, and they get a phone call from you saying, "My mom's being held hostage." How did that go?

[00:10:27] Jeremy Vincent: Yeah, I said that I just got a phone call from, from what came through as my mom's cellphone number, and, and that I needed an officer, and I explained that they just told me that if I call the police, they're going to kill her, so proceed with caution, basically.

[00:10:45] Bob: And did they take it very seriously?

[00:10:49] Jeremy Vincent: It sounds like they did, yeah. It sounds like they were there quick.

[00:10:53] Bob: That's the moment when it hits him -- maybe he just sentenced his mom to death.

[00:11:00] Jeremy Vincent: That was the worst part times ten. I rolled the dice basically, and I hang up the phone and call the police, doing exactly what he said not to do, and then I kind of wait. So I have no idea where, what, what the next phone call's going to be. I have no idea if I'm going to have a phone call from the police saying, hey, we got here and we caught these guys, but they did, they killed your mom, kind of thing. I had no idea what was happening.

[00:11:29] Bob: I can't imagine what those moments must have been like.

[00:11:31] Jeremy Vincent: But I remember, I think it was probably like no more than 15 minutes, but I think it was a pretty long 15 minutes.

[00:11:39] Bob: And so you're...

[00:11:41] Jeremy Vincent: And I'm, you know, at this point I'm kind of...

[00:11:43] Bob: ...heart's beating out of your chest.

[00:11:45] Jeremy Vincent: Yeah, I'm panic stricken. Like I remember look, looking into my bathroom mirror, and my face is flushed and I'm, I'm breathing, like I've got heavy breathing. All of the things that I'm normally not, you know, and so um, yeah it was a, that was as scary time. As soon as I got off the phone with them, that was scary.

[00:12:07] Bob: Oh, I'm guessing also that might be the first moment where you gave yourself um, you know, permission to, to actually uh you know, feel what was happening. You, it sounds like you went into work mode very quickly on the phone. Um, but then once you...

[00:12:22] Jeremy Vincent: Yeah, or at least like gathering data mode. I was trying to think on my toes really well, and I just, you know, again, the phone call woke me up from the middle of, of sleep, which is an interesting strategy. I mean I guess it's smart from their perspective. I remember I; I texted a couple of my aunts about the phone call during it.

(phone ring)

[00:12:47] Bob: That's when the phone rings a second time.

[00:12:49] Jeremy Vincent: I got another call from Mom's Cell. As far as I knew they had her tied up and I took a couple deep breaths, and I answered.

[00:12:57] Bob: At that very moment, police are inside Kathy Vincent's home in Rolla, Missouri, and Kathy has no idea why they're there.

[00:13:07] Kathy Vincent: Right, exactly. I was sound asleep, yeah.

[00:13:10] Bob: And, and what's the first thing that you noticed?

[00:13:12] Kathy Vincent: Well, the very first thing that woke me up, was I have three dogs, by the way, and they were all in the house. And all of the sudden, the dogs started barking, and I had fallen asleep on the couch in the living room, and I looked at the front door, and there was a flashlight shining all over the front door. And then somebody started knocking, and the dogs were, of course, going crazy, so I went over there and turned the outside light on and saw it was the police.

[00:13:45] Bob: So you wake up to the sounds of your dogs going nuts, and, and a flashlight. What did you think was going on?

[00:13:52] Kathy Vincent: I didn't know. First, I thought somebody was trying to break in the house. And then, all of the sudden, you know, there was knocking, and then I thought, who in the world is out there at this time?

[00:14:03] Bob: And uh what was it, two police officers, four police offers? Do you remember?

[00:14:06] Kathy Vincent: Two police officers. Yeah, I opened the door, I said, "Can I help you?"

(MUSIC SEGUE)

[00:14:12] Bob: She answers the door and lets in the cops.

[00:14:15] Kathy Vincent: So I asked them, you know, "Can I help you?" And they said, "Well we just got a call from Jeremy Vincent, is that your son?" And I said, "Yeah." And then everything started running through my mind that someone was wrong with him. And then they said uh, that they got a call from him. He had gotten a call from me that said from my number that said someone is in, was in my house trying to hurt me.

[00:14:41] Bob: So um, I, if it were me, they'd have to explain that about six times before I, I kind of got it.

[00:14:49] Kathy Vincent: Right, exactly, and I said, "What?" And they said, "Yeah," they said, "He got a call that someone was in your house with you, and they were, um, they were trying to harm you." And I'm like, oh my gosh, I said, "No, nobody's here." I said, "I just woke up and, you know, everything's fine." And they said, "Well you may want to give him a call, because he, you know, he was pretty upset."

[00:15:14] Bob: I mean you've gone from sound asleep to someone trying to break in, to the cops maybe looking for someone trying to break in, and now this crazy story. Like where is your, where is your heart rate at at this point?

[00:15:26] Kathy Vincent: Oh, it was pretty fast. It was just like really beating hard, 'cause I'm like, what in the world is going on? What, you know, why in the world would he think that or, you know, what in the world happened to make him think that, but, you know, like they said, he had gotten a call.

[00:15:43] Bob: Mom, still confused, dials her son and is shocked to hear the terror in his voice.

[00:15:52] Kathy Vincent: So then I came inside, and I immediately called him. Well, it took him awhile to answer the phone, and when he did finally answer the phone, I said, "Jeremy?" And he wouldn't say anything. And I said, "Jeremy." I said, "Everything's fine. The police were just here." And he, his voice was shaking, which is nothing like Jeremy, you know, Jeremy's always real self-assured and confident, but his voice was shaking. And by this time then, I mean I was, you know, I started shaking then, and then I got up and while he's telling me everything, I'm actually, physically walking around my house making sure no one is in the house with me, 'cause I mean that was just the weirdest, strangest thing ever. I just, I couldn't believe it.

[00:16:45] Bob: He, he rolled the dice and thought that, you know, whoever it was wouldn't kill you or whatnot if he hung up and called the police. Um...

[00:16:54] Kathy Vincent: Right, and he, he told me on the phone, he said, "I thought I, I wrote your death warrant right when I told him I was going to call the police and I hung up." He said, "I thought they were actually going to kill you."

[00:17:07] Bob: Oh my God.

[00:17:09] Kathy Vincent: You know, I, I talked to him for a little bit, you know which is a matter of another five minutes. I bet it; it took him a while probably to calm down.

[00:17:17] Bob: It sounds terrifying, and again, he, you know, what, when he hung up the phone, he had no way of knowing for sure what the outcome was going to be, and so he had to make that awful decision.

[00:17:28] Kathy Vincent: Right. Exactly, he had no way of knowing if someone was in my house or not. And he did have to make that, you know, horrible decision.

(MUSIC SEGUE)

[00:17:42] Bob: What happened to Jeremy and his mom is called virtual kidnapping. Kathy Vincent was never in any danger, but criminals who had obtained some personal information about Jeremy and Kathy, enough to make the call believable, placed that call. The FBI has been tracking this kind of crime for at least two decades. Through the years, there have been several official warnings about it. The Bureau says many victims do pay the callers, and the average loss is thousands of dollars. In the past, the FBI has said that almost all these virtual kidnappings originated from prisons in Mexico. Criminals there bribe guards to get access to cellphones, but the crime has taken a dark, digital turn lately. Now, armed with personal information often gleaned from social media, they can make the stories more personal. Worse yet, they use cellphone spoofing techniques to trick a smartphone into thinking the call is coming from a loved one. That's why Jeremy's phone displayed Mom's cell that night when the kidnapping call came in.

(MUSIC SEGUE)

[00:18:47] Bob: One of the things Jeremy did right was to ask questions and try to draw more information out of the callers. That bought him time to calm down a little, and that got him to the one fact that gave him the courage to hang up and call the police. The dogs weren't barking. That was a big clue.

(MUSIC SEGUE)

[00:19:10] Bob: I just have to interrupt at this point and say, so I have a dog, I'm a big dog lover and uh the dogs are sort of the heroes of this story, weren't they?

[00:19:16] Jeremy Vincent: Yeah, they... (chuckles) they kind of were. I mean I wish that I would have thought of them sooner.

[00:19:21] Bob: I'm sure they greeted the police officers as well they should have.

[00:19:24] Jeremy Vincent: Yeah. I think so.

[00:19:26] Bob: What are their names, do you know?

[00:19:27] Jeremy Vincent: She has, one of them's name is Buddy, one's Marley, and one's Phantom.

[00:19:31] Bob: And, and what kind of dogs are they?

[00:19:32] Jeremy Vincent: Oh gosh, I knew you'd ask that. I don't know exactly, but they're, they're large and they're pretty ferocious. I mean...

[00:19:39] Bob: That's good to know.

[00:19:40] Jeremy Vincent: Yeah, I don't know exactly what kind of dogs, they're sort of mutts, but they're, they're big and they're, they're friendly.

[00:19:46] Bob: Oh, but they protect your mom.

[00:19:47] Jeremy Vincent: Yeah, I don't think that if you were going to break into a house and your heard them bark, you, I think you'd switch. I think you'd turn around.

[00:19:53] Bob: (laugh)

[00:19:54] Jeremy Vincent: So like I said, I wish I would have thought about them sooner.

[00:19:57] Bob: Yeah, no, it's interesting.

[00:19:58] Jeremy Vincent: I might have asked, well how many dogs does she have, kind of thing. I might have quizzed them.

[00:20:01] Bob: Still, Jeremy was shocked at how real the phone call seemed.

[00:20:05] Jeremy Vincent: Now whenever I, you know having been frustrated by it, I contacted the, the local news station in Tallahassee, and they immediately came and interviewed me about this situation, and I showed the, the lady who interviewed me, I showed her my cellphone. And I still had, like I hadn't deleted, you know, the calls or anything. Like so you could still see, I don’t remember the amount of time, but it was all there. And so I gave her my phone to look at, and she said the same thing. She was like, "That looks identical. That looks like your mom's..." I mean there's nothing different, you know, it's not like this, this call came in and there was some sort of a different, something different that shows up on the phone about it. Even whenever you look at call details, there's nothing different. It looks like a; it looks exactly like it looks whenever my mom calls me.

[00:20:55] Bob: Yeah, and uh, I think it's so important that people, I mean the, the bottom line for a story like this to me is you can't trust your phone, right.

[00:21:03] Jeremy Vincent: Certainly couldn't that night.

[00:21:05] Bob: Yeah.

[00:21:06] Jeremy Vincent: Like, I've had the, the scam phone calls where it's, you know, where they leave a message and say, like "Your Social Security number has been suspended. Call this number," and, or whatever. I've had those. I've had like the, you know, the viruses on your computer that say, "Call this number to get it removed" kind of thing. I've had that, too. But this is, this was a completely different, talking to a real person, having an actual phone conversation with someone who's clearly not a machine, telling you they're going to harm a loved one, calling from that loved one's phone number, and I mean that was just different. I thought, I didn't know that these, these scams went that far.

[00:21:46] Bob: Jeremy did ask police to investigate, but they didn't get very far. He talked to his cellphone company too, and he did get the number used to call him that night, but that turned out to be a dead-end.

[00:21:58] Jeremy Vincent: The phone number was, it was a New Jersey phone number, and it was, it never went anywhere. So I...

[00:22:03] Bob: But they gave you a phone number. I'm actually impressed they went that far without a court order.

[00:22:07] Jeremy Vincent: It sounds like it was like a burner phone anyway. It didn't connect with anything. 

[00:22:11] Bob: And so Jeremy and Kathy have moved on, but still have a lot of questions about what happened that night.

[00:22:18] Bob: There is a, an unsolved mystery to this, to this story for me, I think, unless I've misheard you. We don't really know why these criminals knew that number was your mom's number, and knew to call you, right?

[00:22:34] Jeremy Vincent: Have no idea. There's got to be someone that can explain that better than I can.

[00:22:39] Bob: It's a disturbing part of the story.

[00:22:41] Jeremy Vincent: It is. It's almost as if, 'cause I don't talk to my mom every day or anything, so this happened to be like a Saturday where we had a lengthy phone conversation. It's almost as if our phone conversation was heard, and then somebody followed up ... just a few hours later. It seems to me suspicious that, like I said I, I talk to my, my mom on the phone, maybe once every like couple weeks, but it's usually a lengthy conversation when we talk. And that same night is when this call happens. That just seems coincidental.

[00:23:14] Bob: Or, or more than coincidental perhaps.

[00:23:16] Jeremy Vincent: Yeah, but I have no idea how that happened. I wish I could speak to that. I can't.

[00:23:21] Bob: Perhaps the call might have had something to do with his work in the prison system. Or it could have been information gleaned from social media or other sources. Or it could have been something more high tech, someone else was able to track the calls he made or access his contact list. Whatever the reason, call number spoofing is a dangerous trick criminals can play on people. No, you can't trust what caller ID is telling you.

[00:23:46] Jeremy Vincent: No, no, and I think that my thought was I didn't really expect it to. My thought was just kind of try to spread awareness, 'cause I'm, I'm a fairly young guy, and I'm healthy, but I can't imagine this phone call coming to somebody who's got a heart condition.

[00:24:00] Bob: Yeah, sure.

[00:24:00] Jeremy Vincent: I was pretty panicked, and I'm pretty sure my heartrate was quite high. I mean it felt like, it almost felt like I was, you know, running sprints.

[00:24:08] Bob: Wow.

[00:24:08] Jeremy Vincent: So I mean that could, that could be fatal, you know.

(MUSIC SEGUE)

[00:24:15] Bob: If you ever get a call that threatens a family member like this, the best plan of action is to hang up the phone immediately, and reach out to the person they claim to have kidnapped or someone who'd know to ask if they're okay. Often, continued engagement with a scammer gives them time to further convince you that their story is true. The quicker you hang up, the less time the criminal has to persuade you something is really wrong.  But if you do ever end up on a phone call like Jeremy did, he has specific advice for you.

(MUSIC SEGUE)

[00:24:50] Bob: I'm sure now that you've had time to process this, you have some thoughts for people who might get a phone call like this and, and what they should do. And, and one might be, you know, listen for what should be there that might not be there. Does it really sound like it's your family's house, for example, right?

[00:25:06] Jeremy Vincent: Right.

[00:25:06] Bob: What, what other advice?

[00:25:07] Jeremy Vincent: That's a really good piece of advice, is listen for things. So had it not been the middle of the night ... you know, it's really funny because you can listen to me tell this story and say, well what are you thinking? Yeah, you should have, the dogs, of course. But whenever you're in a situation that's highly emotional, that's not one that you're used to being in, that's, that stuff all goes away. So like, it, it really is true that you don't know how you're going to respond to a situation until you're in it. You know, listen for what should be there, like three large dogs barking; that would be number one. Number two would maybe be, because I think this sort of thing is on the rise, I think that more of this kind of thing happens nowadays, to maybe have some sort of a, a code word with loved ones, you know, well tell me the code word.

[00:25:57] Bob: I mean I think... you're, somehow, you're beating yourself up for not thinking about the dog until four minutes into the conversation. I, I can see most people not thinking about that for an hour. So it seems to me you did phenomenally well.

[00:26:10] Jeremy Vincent: Yeah. Yeah, well, I think, yeah, I think that I've had a lot of time to think about it. (laugh)

[00:26:15] Bob: Kathy has advice too.

[00:26:17] Kathy Vincent: You know, if someone calls you with this kind of scenario, don't send them any money, and just, you know, report it as soon as you can. I mean I was really glad Jeremy, you know, had them come over and check this out that night to put his mind at ease that I was fine instead of thinking, oh, it was just a, a prank call because you don't know. It's really scary how they're getting the information now to be able to do things like this, and you know Jeremy was scared to death that night. I was scared that night. I'm sure he was just 10 times more scared than I was.

[00:26:53] Bob: And the FBI has plenty of advice for people. This is taken right from the FBI website. "If you do engage the caller, don't call out your loved one's name. Try to slow the situation down. Request to speak to your family member directly. Ask how do I know my loved one is okay? Ask questions only the alleged kidnap victim would know, such as the name of a pet. Avoid sharing information about yourself or your family. Listen carefully to the voice of the alleged victim if they speak. Attempt to contact the alleged victim via phone, text, or social media, and request that they call back from their cellphone. To buy time, repeat the caller's request and tell them you are writing down the demand, or tell the caller you need time to get things moving. Don't agree to pay a ransom by wire or in person. Delivering money in person can be dangerous."

(MUSIC SEGUE)

[00:27:56] Bob: There is one good thing that came out of this terrifying experience. Kathy Vincent says she knows just how deep Jeremy's love is for her.

[00:28:05] Kathy Vincent: Well, it's, my relationship with Jeremy, I just know he's just a real good, loving son who cares very deeply about me and wants to know that I'm okay. And that, you know, that makes me feel real good, you know, that he followed up on all that, and he had the police come and check on, on me that night, and just to make sure. And you know we, we probably have gotten a lot closer, and we're definitely a lot more cautious, and like if he hears, you know, sees that I've called him and he'll call me right back or something, and you know, we kind of, I think we've gotten a little bit closer through the whole thing.

[00:28:45] Bob: I'm glad to hear that. I'm not surprised though.

[00:28:47] Kathy Vincent: Yeah. Yeah.

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[00:28:59] Bob: If you have been targeted by a scam or fraud, you are not alone. Call the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360. Their trained fraud specialists can provide you with free support and guidance on what to do next. Thank you to our team of scambusters; Executive Producer, Julie Getz; Producer, Brook Ellis; Associate Producer and Researcher, Megan DeMagnus; and, of course, our Audio Engineer, Julio Gonzalez. Be sure to find us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. For AARP's The Perfect Scam, I'm Bob Sullivan.

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END OF TRANSCRIPT

The Perfect ScamSM is a project of the AARP Fraud Watch Network, which equips consumers like you with the knowledge to give you power over scams.

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