Vernon grandmother victim of ‘kidnapped grandchild’ scam

Published 10:24 am Tuesday, April 19, 2022

A Vernon Parish woman is still recovering emotionally after a terrifying incident involving a scammer that made her believe her granddaughter had been kidnapped and was being held for ransom.

The victim, a senior citizen who asked to not be identified, answered the call that came from a 337 number and was immediately met with a voice she described as belonging to a Hispanic man. The woman said the caller told her he was holding her granddaughter hostage.

The caller threatened to physically harm the granddaughter, and sounds of a girl screaming could be heard in the background.

It was enough to make the victim send $900 through Western Union to Mexico, exactly as she had been instructed.

When the victim went to a family member’s home to get more money to wire to the caller, she was shocked to find her granddaughter safe and sound. Authorities said that’s when the victim realized she had been scammed, and contacted the Vernon Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Chief Detective Rhonda Jordan said that while the event was terrifying for the victim, it is not a new scam to be played out in Vernon Parish. Unfortunately in this case, the victim had destroyed the money order receipt, just as she had been instructed, making it even harder for authorities to attempt to track down the scammers.

Still, Jordan said that it is unlikely the scammers could have been located.

“As with most small departments, we just don’t have the resources needed for these investigations,” Jordan said.

Other residents have since reported receiving similar phone calls from local numbers claiming that a loved one has been injured in a car accident, or is in jail.

In an attempt to protect other potential victims from the scammers, Sheriff Sam Craft is urging residents to think twice about what they post to social media. It is believed that these types of scammers using information obtained from their victim’s social media accounts.

“Please do not post birthdays, relatives, or contact information on social media accounts,” Craft urged.

“If you receive a call of this nature, hang up immediately and then confirm that your loved one is safe. These callers are very convincing and will go to extraordinary lengths to convince victims to wire money out of the country.”

In this woman’s case, family members have said that the transaction was stopped in enough time to protect her funds, but Craft said that is not always the case. Funds sent via wire transfer out of the country are typically non recoverable, he said.