CORAL SPRINGS, FL (WPTV/CNN) - A mother said she was a victim of a kidnapping scam.
She said 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,'" Watson said.
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. 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.
Her husband’s internet search showed the number was from Mexico.
The FBI has been tracking the 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 Watson 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 said the scammers usually try to get parents to wire money.
Callers will try to keep you on the line, but they usually won’t let you speak to the supposed kidnapping victim.
Authorities said the best thing anyone who gets these calls can do is to hang up and contact your closest FBI office.
Other tips from the FBI:
- In most cases, the best course of action is to hang up.
- 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.
If you believe a real kidnapping has taken place, contact the FBI or local law enforcement. Tips can also be sent to tips.fbi.gov.
Copyright 2018 WPTV via CNN. All rights reserved. Raycom News Network contributed to this report