CORAL SPRINGS, Florida (KRON/CNN) – A Florida mother said she was a victim of a kidnapping scam.
She says it began with a disturbing phone call with a whimpering child heard on the line.
It was a number she didn’t recognize, but Katie Watson picked up the call anyway.
“It sounded sort of like a kid’s voice sort of muffled, crying, maybe like they were trying to talk, but I couldn’t understand what they were saying,” Watson said.
For the next few seconds, she tried to communicate with the child, thinking they were trying to reach a parent.
“All of a sudden, a man’s voice came on the line, and he said, ‘Katie, I have your daughter. She’s in the back of my van.'”
Now, it was Monday afternoon, and Katie’s daughter Chloe would be at school.
“I had already had these alarm bells going off in my head like this has got to be a scam,” Watson said. “I just picked up the phone and said, ‘This is scam,’ and I turned the phone off.”
But to be sure, she checked her daughter’s GPS location on her phone which showed her at Westglades Middle School.
“I got chills all over my body and I was like, ‘OK, I know that was a scam,’ but that’s like every parent’s worst nightmare is to hear that your kid has been kidnapped,” Watson said.
Katie’s husband’s Google search showed the number was from Mexico.
The FBI has been tracking this scam for years.
Between 2013 and 2015, these schemes came from Mexican prisons.
Jailed fraudsters would obtain cell phones and search area codes online.
In this case, they knew enough about Katie to give her a scare.
“That’s really part of what gave me the chills, was somebody calling me by name that I don’t know,” Watson said. “That was unsettling.”
The FBI says the scammers usually try to get parents to wire money.
Authorities say the best thing anyone who gets these calls can do is to hang up and contact your closest FBI office.
If you do choose to engage the caller, avoid giving out any personal information.