ENCINITAS, Calif. (KGTV) - Police are investigating an elaborate phone scam that cost an Encinitas woman $1,400.
Lauren Kennedy says she was driving to work Wednesday morning when she received a phone call around 8:30 a.m. She says she had just gotten off the phone with her mother when all of a sudden she was calling her back.
But when she answered, it wasn’t her mother’s voice.
“It was a man’s voice telling me he had abducted my mother and he was going to kill her if I didn't do exactly as he told me,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy said it became so real when she heard her mother’s voice on the other line.
“At that point, that’s when I knew it was real," she said. "I heard her in the background, and I thought for sure that they had taken her.”
The man on the other line directed her to go to the nearest grocery store and put money into Money Pak cards. Then they demanded the card numbers over the phone and ordered her to destroy the cards afterward.
They told her to cut up the cards and email them photo evidence that they had been destroyed.
“At that time he hung up and never called me back,” she explained. “So within a minute or two, I called my mom’s phone and at that time, she answered.”
That’s when Kennedy’s realized she had fallen victim to an elaborate phone scam.
The Sheriff’s Department says the scammers used a “spoofing device” to make it look like the phone was made from her mother’s phone number.
The scammers also called Kennedy’s’ mother in the middle of the fake ransom call. They got her worked up by saying they had her daughter.
“They just wanted her to be scared and sound scared. All I heard was her saying my name. I still can't believe it," Kennedy said. “I think their whole intention with calling her was to have her voice in the background while they were asking me to do whatever they wanted me to do."
Kennedy says she not sure how the scammers got her information or her mother’s. She says she is always careful with her information and weary of scams.
“I don't answer phone calls I don't recognize,” she said. “I don't answer blocked numbers. I let people leave voicemails to determine if it’s legit or not. I feel like the public needs to know about this (scam) because if I can fall for this, anybody can fall for this.”
In an email, to 10News the Sheriff’s Department says people should hang up when they get phone calls like this and should immediately call law enforcement.
Kennedy says that's what her mother did when she go the call, but for her - it’s easier said than done.
“This was life or death," she said. "They were threatening to kill my mom."
In a statement, the Sheriff’s Department also wants to remind the public to be careful with their personal information:
“We also recommend not posting personal information such as phone numbers, family member names, addresses, school information, birthdays, etc. on social media. When in doubt, call the Sheriff's Department or your local law enforcement agency.”