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Danville Police Interrupt Phony Kidnap Scam – Victim Counting Out Ransom Money When Stopped

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In the latest in a string of telephonic cons aimed at separating victims from their money through the use of Internet or telephone – Danville police officers saved a 52-year-old resident from wiring a large sum of money to “kidnappers” who told him they were holding his daughter hostage Monday.

Danville Police Chief Allan Shields said the panic-stricken father was on the phone with the con men and counting “a large stack of bills” when he was approached by officers who were able to determine the whereabouts and safety of the man’s daughters – and pull the plug on the con.

“This one was different in that they wouldn’t let him hang up the phone,” Shields said Tuesday. “They were guiding him with detailed instructions and limiting his opportunity to contact law enforcement.”

Shields said the victim was phoned at his work in San Ramon at 11:19 a.m. Monday, not recognizing the incoming number but noting that it appeared to originate from out of the country.

“The next thing he hears is his daughter screaming she has been kidnapped, that she is being held in a van, and that he should do what the kidnappers wanted,” Shield said.

It turns out the would-be victim attempted to flag down police in San Ramon immediately after he was contacted but they couldn’t reach him in time, instead sharing their description of the victim with Danville PD and later helping to determine that one of the man’s daughters, who attended a local school, was safe after officers located the victim in the parking lot of a local Western Union outlet.

Minutes away from wiring the “ransom money,” according to Shields.

“Our guys were able to slow things down and with help from San Ramon officers, determine that the victim’s daughters were safe,” Shields said. “That was the end of the call.”

The Kidnap Con, a variant of the “IRS Penalty” or “Your Grandson Is In Jail” scam, differed from past crimes in that the con men – and apparently at least one con woman – were careful to “groom” their victim, moving him from place to place at their will and affording him no opportunity to contact authorities.

Contacting police early on is critical in heading off these crimes, Shields said, as past victims who have succumbed to phone or Internet con men have wired off tens of thousands of dollars – with little to no hope of ever recovering the money.

12 COMMENTS

  1. As a parent, I understand his concern for his daughter. Come on. How gullible is this man? He’s 52 – not 85. The number came from out of the country. These scams are well known.

    If you see that a number is from out of the country – don’t pick up the phone. Even if you do business internationally – let it go to voicemail. A “real caller” will leave a “real message.”

    They wouldn’t let him hang up the phone? Please hang up the phone yourself, and quit being so na├»ve. Slam dunk him! Did it dawn on him to try to contact his daughter? Maybe at work, home or school – depending on age?

    I will always have empathy for the elderly who get these calls. My heart goes out to them…

  2. Too much of this is going on lately. I wish the police could set up a sting and have the authorities at the other end caps for the people when they come to claim the money. In other jurisdictions and countries they probably would get punished for these deeds more than in California.

  3. One of your facebook people said it best — they are preying on our greatest fear: as parents.

  4. You have to wonder how many people they call in a day before someone falls for their line.

  5. They are preying on our greatest fears as parents, but you have to educate yourself, and know a scam is a scam. Unless you’re elderly, there is no reason in the world to fall for something like this.

  6. Here in the U.S. phone scams is a multi billion dollar crime. Most of these victims are the elderly who have worked hard for their life savings. Each year the number of phone scammer and victims to these crimes keeps increasing. With the technology we have I believe we could minimize this crime … if our government got together with the phone company’s and tech companies and worked out a plan with better policies … again this is a multi billion dollar crime.

  7. @George – Thanks, George. We’ve written about these cons a lot but learned of some really scary cases looking into this latest one. Hoping the word gets out to the right people. In time.

  8. US phone scams are a multi million dollar crime. It’s technology that has “maximized” these crimes. Elderly people are most vulnerable (the rest of us should know better) but even the elderly can be taught if their families care.

    The phone companies and the government don’t care. It’s our responsibility to take ourselves out of the equation and see to it that we don’t fall for this, and that our elderly parents and grandparents don’t get victimized.

    A 94 year old lady at our church got the “grandson in jail’ call. She told the caller “my children and grandchildren told me this is bull crap” and she hung up him. She put it in our church bulletin advising other seniors to beware. Go Margaret go!

    Spread the word to family and friends… and stay safe.

  9. @Danielle – Margaret sounds like a pistol! Give her our best and congratulate her on – hopefully – giving some offshore ne’er-do-well second thoughts about his or her job choice!

  10. In a perfect world, communicating to the elders is the best way. The problem is not all elders are as sharp as they used be due aging mental effects. Some elders live alone and may not have family to communicate with or the elders don’t remember things you tell them or they fail under pressure when a scammer calls them on phone.

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