Live 5 Scambusters: Mother and daughter "escape" kidnapping scam

Live 5 Scambusters: Mother and daughter "escape" kidnapping scam
Two women share their escape from a kidnapping scam (Source: Live 5)

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A frightening threat to a loved one is turning out to be a gut-wrenching scam popping up around South Carolina.

Imposter scams continue to be the most common cases of fraud in South Carolina. These phony callers represent 60-percent of all scams statewide according to the Department of Consumer Affairs.

Kidnapping and ransom scams have been reported this summer and one mother and daughter found themselves right in the middle of one. Alicia Wikle got a call at work from someone who claimed to be holding her mother for ransom.

"He said 'If you want to see your mom alive again you're going to go to the bank and bring me $4,000," Alicia said.

Wikle said she even heard cries for help, calling out her name.

"It sounded like my Mom, but like something covering her mouth," Wikle explained.

The caller told Alicia she could not hang up the phone, could not call anyone, and must pay a $4,000 ransom if she wanted to see her mother, Allison again. Surrounded by children at a daycare in Myrtle Beach, Alicia tried not to panic. She called a co-worker over to help.

"I put him on speaker to let her hear what he was saying," Alicia said. "Then I lipped to her to call 911."

The 911 operator assured Alicia it was a scam and reached out to confirm her mother was OK. Allison Wikle happened to be working from home when the dispatcher called to confirm her safety.

"I just knew that my daughter was probably scared totally to death and freaked out," Allison said.

Allison travels a lot for work and is thankful she was easily reachable at the time.

"I could have been on a plane or any place I didn't have access to my phone and they couldn't have verified my safety," Allison said.

This scam has popped up more than once recently in Myrtle Beach. Around the same day in July, a scammer claimed to have kidnapped a man's wife. The caller threatened to hurt the woman every minute the $5,000 ransom was late. The man's son drove to the police department to confirm the kidnapping was a hoax.

Charleston County Sheriff's Office responded to a similar report on Kiawah Island on July 25. A mother told deputies a man called and claimed to have her daughter. The man demanded payment for her safe return and threatened danger to the child if the mother hung up the phone. The woman never paid and deputies were able to locate the daughter and another child who were safe and unharmed.

For tips from the FBI on how to handle this kidnapping scam, click here.

If you have a scam story to share, email Kyle Jordan at Scams@live5news.com.

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