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San Diego woman scammed | Here's how a virtual kidnapping extortion call works

Scammers can use an app which allows callers to change their caller ID and even disguise their voice.

SAN DIEGO — Lesley Mumford says she is pretty savvy when it comes to knowing about scams, yet it only took eight minutes for her to get scammed in what is being called a virtual kidnapping call. 

"It's one of the most traumatic things that I've ever been through," said Mumford.

The San Diego I.T. manager was texting her mom at work when she received a call from her. 

"That’s what hooked me is that before I picked up the call because it came through as her calling me and it was a man in distress. I didn't question whether that was my mom because it came through as her number," said Mumford. 

This is called "spoofing." Scammers can use an app which allows callers to change their caller ID and even disguise their voice. Mumford was led to believe her mother was in danger. 

"And very quickly he turned aggressive, using profanities, swore on a baby's life that he would kill my mom and kill himself. He told me not to get anyone involved, and not to get police involved. He said do everything he says and he won't kill her," said Mumford. 

Frantic, Mumford followed the scammer’s demands. She used the Zelle app to send him $500, then $400 more. After that, he ended the call.

"He could have asked me for more money and I would have given it to him," said Mumford. 

She immediately reached out to her mom. 

"I quickly called her back and within four seconds I realized this didn't happen," said Mumford.

CBS 8 Reporter Ariana Cohen tried calling the number from the Zelle app transaction. A woman answered claiming to be a businesswoman, saying she had no idea about this incident.

The FBI is now warning the public of these virtual kidnapping extortion calls. On the bureau’s website, they have multiple ways you can protect yourself, such as trying to slow the situation down, asking questions, and requesting to speak to the victim directly. 

Mumford hopes her story prevents this from happening to someone else. 

"I feel super vulnerable. I can't believe I was scammed in this horrible way," said Mumford. 

Mumford filed a report with San Diego Police and the FBI. She has also filed a case with her bank and says she still not has received any money back. 

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