Hostage phone scam terrifying Utah victims state wide

KUTV Phone scam 120617.JPG

(KUTV) Police are alerting everyone of a phone scam that is now terrifying people state-wide.

Word of the scam aired Tuesday night warning of victims in northern Utah, but KUTV learned that a number of residents in southern Utah, including a public official, fell victim, or nearly fell victim, to this scam.

Washington County Commissioner, Dean Cox, was driving back to work on River Road, after enjoying lunch with his wife, when he received a phone call.

“I’ve got my little telephone set so that it just Bluetooth automatically to the vehicle and so I just reached up and hit answer ... and it sounded like my daughter was sobbing hysterically saying dad, dad, dad, you got to help me dad.” Cox said.

As a parent, the sound of what could be one of his two daughters screaming made a number of thoughts rush into his mind.

“Thoughts that were running through my mind is: she's had a child that's been struck by a car or involved in some kind of accident or my son in law has been in an accident at work or maybe someone has died,” Cox said. “Words really fail to describe the feelings that come rush through you in that moment.”

After trying to calm, who he thought was his daughter down, a man got on the phone and told Cox that “nobody has been shot, nobody has been hurt, your daughter has been kidnapped.”

Cox then made an excuse to call the man back, so he could call his two daughters and make sure they are OK. He found that they were both safe and with their families. At that moment he knew it was a scam.

According to Lona Trombley with the St. George Police Department some of these scammers get to a point where they demand ransom money for the safe return of their loved one.

“If you don't pay us X amount of dollars right now then we are going to shoot her,” Trombley said, referring to what some of these scammers may say over the phone to encourage people to pay that money.

But the conversation never reached that point with Cox, the man on the phone called him back and that’s when Cox said he called the guy out for the fake call.

“He was the object of a little bit of my anger.” Cox said.

Police encourage everyone out there to be careful. If you get a call like Cox did immediately check on your family members, ask personal questions that only those family members would know and be skeptical.

“I think the best message would be, don't send any money, don't reward the behavior and activities of these scammers.” Cox said.

If you do get a call from one of these scammers, your asked to call your local law enforcement.

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