GREENVILLE, SC (WWAY) — Last year, the FBI recorded more than half a million imposter phone scams, taking more than a million dollars. Callers most commonly pretend to be police officers, IRS agents, and now potential kidnappers.
Phil Justice, a Greenville resident and uncle to WWAY’s Peyton Furtado, set out for work Monday, with no idea he’d encounter his worst nightmare.
As he drove to a house showing, Justice got a call from a local area code.
“It was our daughter, Hannah.” Justice said. “She was bawling, crying, telling me she had been in an accident and to come get her.”
Then a man’s voice took over, explaining Justice needed to stay on the line and bring him 1,000 dollars if he wanted his daughter back.
“He said, I can take her with me, and you and I both know she’s much more valuable to me in the streets than just giving her to you for a thousand dollars,” remembered Justice.
Adrenaline taking over, Justice began to drive. He texted his wife, Heather, to call the police while he continued to get directions.
“I mean, it was like he was watching me. You should be coming up on Main Street now. You should be coming up at such-in-such street.”
Justice finally arrived at the bank scammers instructed him to go to. Then, his daughter’s voice came back on the line, crying and asking for help.
Before he could wire money, Heather was able to finally get ahold of their daughter. She was safe and attending classes. Justice and police hung up on the scammers, shocked by how realistic the voice sounded.
“The recording of Hannah’s voice called him daddy,” Heather Justice explained. “And she is the only one that calls him daddy. And so it was in character, it was the right verbiage, and that’s how she has him saved as her phone contact.”
This kind of scam is not new in the United States. Documented cases typically target families and the elderly, using an emotional situation to get money.
According to the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office, scammers going to these extremes are new to the Carolinas, though less extreme scams happen constantly in the Cape Fear.
Spokesperson, Jerry Brewer said they usually involve someone saying a loved one is in jail and needs bond money.
“And if it is your son or daughter, and you’re not talking directly to them… I’m so-in-so with so-in so and I’ve got your daughter or son here at the jail, that’s not true either. we give them a phone to make calls with.”
If you do receive a call like what the Justices’ experienced, the FBI recommends the following:
- Ask to speak with your loved one.
- Ask personal questions, like the name of your loved one’s first pet.
- Contact the police.
- Have someone else contact the loved one in question.
- Stay calm.
- Attempt to slow down the situation.