MORRILTON, Ark. – A nightmare is playing out over the phone of several Americans this week. Someone calls you from a local number, says your daughter is kidnapped and starts demanding money.
You might think it’s an obvious scam, but whoever is behind this does a lot to trick you. Not only are they using a 501-area code to call from in Arkansas, but they also reference local street names when trying to arrange a spot to get paid.
It’s happened enough times in Conway County that the Sheriff’s Office is raising an alarm, and our station spoke with a couple of victims who are warning others not to be surprised like them.
“When this little girl quit talking to me, panic,” described one man, wishing not to be identified.
The call left him with a scare he’ll likely never forget. He thought his 16-year-old had gotten in a wreck because he heard the cries and someone told him she’d crashed.
When the dad got in his car to head to where he thought his daughter would be, the call to provide help became a call demanding money.
“He started saying, ‘We are a Mexican drug cartel, and this is a kidnapping,” the dad remembered.
This man, described as a Hispanic male, asked the father for $1,000. They tried to do the same to Conway County resident Rhea Rodelo.
“The screaming at the beginning of the phone call of ‘Mommy, I was in a wreck!’ I think that was the first thing that triggered my adrenaline,” Rodelo stated. “He said if you want to see your daughter again in one piece, you will do what I ask you to do.”
According to the Conway County Sheriff’s Department, four people had called their office with the same story all within roughly 24 hours. Chief Deputy Jeremy Kissire’s best advice if you receive the call is to hang up and dial 911 immediately.
“If we don’t get the word out, and we get a stop put to it, they are going to be successful and meeting up with somebody and collecting money,” Deputy Kissire warned.
Both parents we spoke to were able to catch the scammer by texting family members who called their daughters, but it didn’t stop them from feeling it was real beforehand.
“You start going to my daughter’s hurt, and I’ve got to figure this stuff out. And whatever that guy said, I was going to make happen,” the father admitted.
The scam goes far beyond Conway County or Arkansas’s borders. Our team has confirmed the same scam as far as Minnesota. All the details of the call were consistent, even using a local area code to call from.
“They have enough scams out there that they don’t need to take it to this level,” Rodelo insisted.
“I mean they had it played out well,” the father concluded. “I had one of the worst days of my life because of that.”