Huntsville woman tricked out of hundreds of dollars in hostage scam call

Huntsville woman tricked out of hundreds of dollars in hostage scam call
Published: Jan. 11, 2023 at 5:25 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 11, 2023 at 7:00 PM CST
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - A Huntsville woman is out of $1,200 after a scammer tricked her into believing the unimaginable.

Katie Bryant received a phone call from her mother’s number on Saturday and when she answered, a man’s voice told her that he was holding her mother in captivity.

“When I answer, there was a man on the other end,” Bryant said. “‘And if you don’t do what I say, or if you call the cops, I will kill her and then kill myself’.”

Bryant was forced to send a total of $1,200 via mobile transfer applications like Cash App and Venmo. She said the experience was horrifying and after the fact, she realized that she had been scammed.

“He was a great actor because he sounded unhinged and he made me feel like I had to rush,” she said. “It felt like a very real hostage situation that was taking place not face to face, but through a phone.”

Deputy Director for Research at Auburn University’s McCrary Institute Marc Sachs said scams like this happen all the time.

“A lot of these criminal organizations, they just work on the fear of people,” he said. “They know if they call someone from what looks like their child’s number, or in this case, their mother’s number, I can ask for pretty much anything I want, and the recipient is going to believe it.”

He also said that scammers can easily create a “spoof” number using software that makes the number appear on your phone as someone you know. Sachs said what you put on social media can be a target for potential scammers.

“It’s not hard to figure out on social media because of public profiles to figure out who your parents are, who your brothers and sisters are, and who your kids are if you’re a parent,” he said.

Sachs recommends if you get a call about a hostage situation, it likely is not a real hostage situation. He said you can tell the caller to wait while you check the bank. If they don’t call back, they were likely scammers.

Bryant said looking back at the scam, she should have realized the call was a scam.

“Looking back, he knew so much about these apps like Cashapp and Venmo. That should have been a red flag because he said look and this button and click on this button,” she said.