I was cleaning up lunch when my phone rang. It was a Connecticut number, but I didn’t recognize it. I answered the phone, unsure if it would be one of my siblings or parents. Instead, it was a voice I didn’t recognize.
Voice: Yes, hello? You can hear me?
Me: Yes. Who is this?
Voice: Oh, ma’am, I got your number from your brother to call for help.
Me: What? My brother? What happened?
Voice: He’s ok. He was in a car accident in Hartford this morning.
Me: Oh my God! Where? Where is he? Where are you?!
Voice: He is ok. I need his name to verify.
Me: Wait, who? Who?
Voice: Your brother. I need his name to verify.
Me: I have two brothers. Oh my God. Is it John or Sean? Where is he?
Voice: Yeah, yeah. It’s Sean! Ya see, my brother was going to the gas station in Hartford and Sean hit his car. Nobody got hurt, but my brother’s BMW is smashed. The damages are going to be about $6000. Sean started to argue with him about the money and before I knew it they started fighting. That’s when my brother pulled out his gun.
Me: What?! A gun – Are you serious?!
Voice: I know, I know. He’s ok though. I wanted to help, so I convinced my brother to just calm down and take him here and to call for help.
Me: Ok, ok. What – what do you need? Where is he?
Voice: Ma’am, just stay calm. My brother needs the money to fix his car. He will let Sean go if we can get $1000 up front.
Me: Um, ok. Okay.
Voice: You have that much?
Me: Well, I have some in cash. I’ll have to go to the bank for the rest.
Voice: Okay. You get the rest – ma’am I hear that you have people around you. Are you not alone?
Me: Yeah. Those are my kids. I have three little kids – toddlers and babies.
Voice: Ok. You cannot call the police or anybody. You cannot involve anybody or Sean will get hurt. What I’m going to need you to do is go to your nearest Wal-Mart or Stop & Shop –
Me: I have to take my kids some place first. I have to take them to my neighbor before I do anything.
Voice: Your kids are fine. Just put your phone on speaker. Go to Stop & Shop and get a Western Union –
That’s when my oldest chirpped.
“Who is that mommy? Why does he have a GUN?!” I tried to quiet him down, but he was very afraid. “What’s happening to Uncle -” I clamped my hand over his mouth.
Voice: Hello? Hello? Are you there? You cannot hang up or your brother WILL get hurt.
“Mommy! Just turn that thing off!” He reached across and hung up my phone.
It was now time to take my son to preschool, so I ignored the constantly ringing phone and packed up all three kids. My phone alternated between ringing and pinging with text messages. I knew I would have to find a police department. I attempted to calm my frightened kid as I sent him into school. I tried to explain to him what was really going on, but he was clearly scared anyway.
Below are screen shots of my phone with the kinds of messages he sent as well as the numerous ignored phone calls.
Finally on the last call I answered.
Me: So what’s the deal? I just spoke with him.
Voice: I know! I didn’t think you were believing me, so I had him call you.
Me: Yeah, but he’s fine. He’s at work.
Voice: I told him to say that. Look, he is going to die.
Me: I think you’re bull shitting me.
Voice: What you don’t know is I’ve had my gang watching you for days! I know everything about you. If you don’t get me my money, not only is Sean a dead man, but you’ll be shot right in the head. Just watch the news tonight. His body is going to be on it.
Me: Yeah ok. What’s my name then? What town am I in? Fuck, prove something.
Voice: I don’t need to prove anything. You are letting your brother die! And I’m coming to kill you next.
Me: Oh, screw you Jose. This is nothing but a poor excuse for a scam. A very bad one at that. Jesus, you think I’m stupid? You’re a horrible person with nothing else to do except try to lie and scare money out of people.
Voice: FUCK YOU, BITCH! You think this is a fucking game?! I don’t play games. You won’t be laughing when I come to kill your whole family. I’m starting with your kids. You can watch. Then I’ll shoot you in your fucking skull.
Me: Ok dude. I’m home for the rest of the day. Come and get me.
Then Voice hung up and it was silent. I was buzzed, amped up and shaking from adrenaline. The fingers grasping my phone were tingling. The kinds of things people are willing to say to strangers is disgusting. The kinds of things people are willing to do for money is disgusting.
I went to the police to report the calls and the text messages. My town is too small to actually have a police department, but we do have a Resident State Trooper, so I spoke to him. I explained the scam, but he seemed confused.
“How did you know it was a scam?”
Well, for starters, I don’t have a brother named Sean. Also, I did a quick Google search on the phone number and found several links reporting it as a scammer in the state.
“Really? I haven’t heard of that. Well, just don’t answer your phone next time.”
Gee, thanks Officer. How about you at least take down the information – I’m trying to report a crime here!
The officer didn’t strike me as completely with it, and I’m fairly sure that the wee scrap of paper the details were as scribbled down on were tossed as soon as I walked out the door. The officer clearly didn’t see the point in reporting the scam of I didn’t get hurt or fall for it; which is why I’m writing about it here.
There is a man with a Hispanic accent calling people and telling them their lives ones have been I’m an accident. While he seems concerned at first, his story quickly devolves into a kidnapping stunt requesting a Western Union transfer. Some people have already fallen for the scam, and dozens have reported similar calls.
I knew it wasn’t real from the git-go. I had just gotten off the phone with my father who told me about my real brother’s car troubles and how he had to drive him to work. Also, my brother would never have a reason to be in Hartford, CT. But, my number is a Hartford number and I’ve kept it, even though I sing live in the area anymore… so the guy was just taking guesses in the dark. I played along on purpose to try and possibly get some information from him and to try to get him on the phone for the police.
(203) 400-5383 is a scammer. No matter how convincing or frightening the caller may seem, they do not have your loved one and are simply trying to extort money. If you end up having to deal with them, or any phone scam, spread the word and the number. Hopefully through word of mouth and networking no one else will fall victim to these thieves.