Kidnapping scheme using child’s voice almost fools Tampa Bay parents

Pinellas County

PINELLAS PARK, Fla. (WFLA) – Jane and Joe said their nightmare became a reality on May 19. In an effort to conceal their identities, 8 On Your Side changed their voices and are referring to them by alias names.

The parents are sharing frightening new details about a terrifying child kidnapping scheme they almost fell for.

“Not a safe feeling anymore, you feel like someone is watching your house. Like someone is watching you from somewhere,” said Jane and Joe of Pinellas Park.

The scheme occurred they heard their daughter’s voice on the phone. Moments before transferring thousands of dollars, they realized, it couldn’t actually be her.

“We heard the screams of our daughters asking for help,” said Joe.

“My heart was stopped, but then I had to act quick,” said Jane.

The couple reported the incident to the police when it happened last Wednesday. Now, in an effort to help others, they’re sharing their story with 8 On Your Side.

They said they thought their daughter was at Morgan Fitzgerald Middle School in her eighth-grade class. That is until they got a call that she was taken, telling the parents to send money, or else.

“If you call the police, he said, I’m going to rape your daughter and kill her and you’ll be attending her funeral,” Joe recalled.

Then, they heard their daughter’s voice in distress. “She said, ‘Mom, please come! He’s going to hurt me if you don’t!'” Jane said.

They said that’s when panic set in. “Pulse is over 200, blood is rushing to your head and you’re not quite thinking straight,” Joe vividly remembered.

The couple says their daughter is the youngest in the family and began rushing to the bank to transfer $2,000.00 to try to save her. The whole time, Jane said she was worried about her daughter’s wellbeing, and her husband’s.

“I was thinking my husband may have a heart attack, a stroke at that moment, you never know,” Jane said about her husband who she said was visibly distraught.

Moments before sending the money, Jane called the police from a different cell phone. She said within 10 minutes a school resource officer was able to determine their daughter was in class and was safe.

“I never called her and I think that was my biggest mistake. So parents, if you’re listening to me, always call your child,” Jane said.

They think their daughter’s voice was stolen from a social media account or the Internet.

“Hopefully she learned not to record her voice, and I know I learned not to answer unknown calls,” Jane said.

Jane and Joe told us the heart-pounding nightmare lasted all of 20 minutes.

Now the parents hope Pinellas Park police will be able to track down the man on the other end of the phone, so no one else has to experience something like this.

8 On Your Side asked Pinellas Park police what advice they have if you get a call like this, but no one was available to talk on Friday. We will follow up with them in the coming days.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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