WINTER HAVEN, Fla. – On Saturday, a Winter Haven citizen received a phone call from an international number around 11:30 a.m. The male caller claimed to have information about her daughter being in a traffic crash and the daughter’s information needed to be verified. Unfortunately, the mother gave information due to the urgent nature of the caller.
At that point, the tone of the call changed drastically. The caller then demanded the mother go to Western Union to wire $1,000 immediately because her daughter was being held hostage by the Mexican Cartel. The instructions were to send money to a listing in Mexico.
Frantic, the mother went to Western Union while the caller was still on the phone. The caller told her that if she disconnected the call she won’t hear from her daughter again. The mother did send $350, but the caller demanded more and threatened harm again to her daughter. The mother also heard what sounded like a female screaming “mommy help!” in the background. She sent the only remaining money she had and the call ended.
Once the call was disconnected, she immediately called her daughter’s cell phone only to find out that she was safe and with her husband spending the day in Orlando. Relieved her daughter was in fact okay, she then asked Western Union if the transmittal could be stopped, but was told no.
“This type of coercion is unthinkable,” said Public Safety Director and Police Chief Charlie Bird, “And the worst part is it is extremely difficult to trace these types of scams and bring people to justice.”
Authorities warn citizens that these tactics are used to put victims in a position of total fear. If anyone receives this type of call, as hard as it may seem, disconnect and call law enforcement immediately with the phone number the call came from and any names associated, if given.