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‘Greatest level of fear I’ve ever had’: Stark County family describes heart-wrenching kidnapping scam call

Authorities urge caution as more cases pop up
Kidnapping scam
Posted at 5:12 PM, Feb 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-04 19:14:53-05

STARK COUNTY, Ohio — Deputies with the Stark County Sheriff’s Office, as well as nearby Massillon Police, continue to investigate what they’re calling a despicable and terrifying phone scam involving fake kidnappings.

At least five cases between the two departments over the last two weeks involve families receiving a phone call from an unknown number, claiming to have kidnapped a family member and demanding money.

Tom and Kathy, who declined to share their last name for their safety, described the phone call they received on Wednesday.

“The female voice said ‘Mom, Mom, Mom, they’ve got me, they kidnapped me and they’re throwing me in the trunk,’” Kathy detailed. “It sounded very close to our daughter. It was hard to tell. The voice was crying. It was muffled and a lot of background noise and it was very hard to distinguish.”

Kathy told News 5 how the phone was then passed to an unknown man who then demanded money in exchange for returning their daughter safely.

“You feel like your world fell out from underneath your feet,” Kathy added. “It was heart-wrenching. It takes an awful person for what they did yesterday.”

While Kathy stayed on the phone and stalled the unknown caller, her husband Tom called 911. Within minutes, deputies were able to locate their daughter safely at work.

Lieutenant Ryan Carver with the Stark County Sheriff’s Office continues to investigate that case, plus several others, as they work with federal authorities trying to track down those behind the calls.

“It can be very difficult given it seems to be originating overseas or outside the United States,” he said.

Police said no money was lost in any of the recent cases.

This is not the first time police encountered a scam targeting people over the phone.

“It’s a new twist in the ongoing scams perpetrated through the phone,” Carver added. “Anything to instill that sense of emergency to get somebody to provide money or payments as quickly as possible before they have a chance to realize they’re being scammed.”

Massillon Police investigated two of the cases on Monday, after a man in his 80s got repeated calls. Body camera video shows one officer talking to the caller.

“Be skeptical of any kind of phone call you get like that,” Lt. Carver said. “Take the time to reach out to that family member, contact law enforcement and 911.”