ENCINITAS, CA (KGTV/CNN) – An investigation is underway into a fake kidnapping scam in California.
A woman paid $1,400 to a caller who claimed he kidnapped her mother – and even seemed to have proof to back it up.
The incident that occurred Wednesday morning shows some scammers have worrisome new tricks.
From the beginning, Lauren Kennedy thought it sounded like a ransom call.
"It was a man's voice telling me that he had abducted my mother and that he was going to kill her if I didn't do exactly as he told me. I quickly told him, 'I'll do whatever you want me to do,'" Kennedy said.
The supposed kidnapper called Kennedy from her mother's phone number.
"It was everybody's worst nightmare," she said.
The nightmare became all too real when she heard her mother's voice on the line.
"I heard her in the background, and I thought for sure that they had taken her," Kennedy said.
The man commanded her to go to the nearest grocery store and put money into reloadable debit cards.
He demanded the card numbers over the phone. He then told Kennedy to cut up the cards and email photo evidence that they'd been destroyed.
"He, at that time, hung up and never called me back," she said. "So, within a minute or so, I called my mom's phone again, and, at that time, she answered."
That's when Kennedy realized she'd fallen victim to an elaborate phone scam.
Authorities said the scammers used a spoofing device to make it look like the phone call was made from Kennedy's mother's phone – and to really sell it, they called Kennedy's mother in the middle of the fake ransom call.
The scammers then got her mother worked up by saying they had Kennedy.
"They just wanted her to be scared and to sound scared, I'm sure," Kennedy said. "But, all I heard was her saying my name, and, yeah, I still can't believe it."
Kennedy finds it especially hard to believe because she's as careful as anyone when it comes to scams.
"I don't answer phone calls that I don't recognize. I don't answer blocked numbers," she said. "I just feel like the public needs to know about this. If I can fall for this, anybody could fall for this."
Authorities say people should hang up when they receive scam calls. They also advise caution when posting personal information online.