A person who lives near me originally posted this story on Facebook about how somebody claimed to have kidnapped his fiancé. I am sharing it here with his permission. He posted the story on Wednesday, March 16, 2022. This is his story in his own words. I edited for grammar and spelling, cleaned up a few sentences, and rearranged a couple paragraphs for clarity. I also used fictional names. With the benefit of hindsight and years of cybersecurity experience, I’ll share some thoughts after his story.
This happened to me on Monday. I’m writing this as warning to everyone of the evil that’s out there. Don’t be taken onto a rollercoaster like I was.
I left work to go pick up my daughter and come back to work as I do on my days with my kiddos. On the road, I received a phone call from a local number. I answered to woman on the other line very hysterical and in panic, crying. A man took the phone and told me my girlfriend had been in a car accident and that she was uncontrollable. I heard the cries from this woman and I could swear it was my fiancé. He told me she had been in a bad car accident and I needed to come there. He asked me to talk to her and calm her down. He put her back on the phone and I could hear her cries. I told her its okay baby, its all going to be okay, as my heart dropped and couldn’t figure out exactly what was going on.
He proceeded to tell me that there was no accident and that my fiancé was in the back of his truck, kidnapped. He was a drug dealer and she was witness to his drug deal, he had 20 lbs. of coke in his car that he wasn’t able to complete the sale because she made a scene where his business was going on. He had no choice but to put her in his car and drive away. My heart sank even lower, as I’m driving to pick up my daughter from elementary school.
He tells me that he wants to give me a chance to help her and that i can pick her up. He is a dealer and that any other day he would just traffic her and I’d never see her again. With the screams of a woman in the background, I tell him I’ll do what ever it takes. He tells me he lost $10K in the business deal she intervened in and he needed compensation for his loss. At the same time I’m not to hang up, text or call anyone as my call was her lifeline. No cops or she’s dead. I took his directions and drove to a nearest bank to withdraw his asking amount. He wants my phone out to listen to my chat with the bank clerk. Any suspicion that I’m hinting this to anyone would be her last breath.
I walk into my bank and ask to make a withdrawl with this person on the phone next to me. If i were to hint or give up any info he tells me that he’ll start taking off fingers and that he didn’t want to harm her, but she’s seen too much. I make my withdrawal and I can still hear her cries on the back ground. He tells me she can hear us talk and she knows I’m coming to save her.
He directs me to the nearest Walmart, as he wants to make the trade in a public place. This whole time I’m holding back tears. I don’t know how to do this, My daughter is also waiting for me to pick her up, but I keep it together and proceed with the instructions not to hang up or make any moves out of my route.
The nearest Walmart is 10 minutes away and I start my drive to it. Five minutes into my drive, my phone rings. I have this individual on the other line, and I see my fiancé’s face come up on my screen. I was excited and happy but at the same time wondering if this now a test of me hanging up the other line.
I take the call and its her. She has no idea of what I’ve been through the past 40 minutes and says “I think I can still make it in time to pick up Nina from school.”
I got full of emotions and happiness and in 3 minutes, I tell her what’s going on. On the other line this guy is calling me back because I hung up on him to take her call. I take his call and his words are, “She’s dead.”
I proceed to tell him off and that I have my fiancé safe and sound. His line goes silent.
I was played. I report this to the authorities and unfortunately, this is an on going issue and has been getting worse with people wiring money to these low life, scum of human beings. I held her tight when I finally saw her and had my kid with us. The adrenaline has passed and I’m shaking from the events today.
I can tell you that by now, I’ve thought up a thousand ways I could have done different. But all honesty when you’re facing the slight possibility that your loved one is in some kind of danger and you have the means to help them, it’s a chance that may not be worth taking. I made my choice with the little information I was given and I believed my loved one was being attacked.
I write this to help anyone who may encounter this. I let my fear of losing my love get to me and I almost became one of those people to wire and fund these monsters that do nothing but terrorize.
I have a hunch, the attacker wanted to “meet” at Walmart for a wire transfer. There never would have been a face to face meeting. The caller ID showed a local number, but the attacker was probably overseas.
This story caught my attention both because it’s visceral, and because it’s part of a larger trend. That Business Insider article is behind a paywall. Here is a PDF.
With attacks like this, social engineering has taken an ugly turn, and with deepfake technology, it will only get worse. We are up against masters of manipulation, with years of experience, who carefully plan and rehearse these attacks.
As usual, victims are on your own. The CIA, FBI, NSA, local police, and the Department of Homeland Security might offer sympathy later. Maybe somebody will fill out a crime report. But nobody will offer you anything tangible. Overseas attackers hide behind IP phones and local caller-IDs, and nobody can trace these calls without cooperation from legions of international phone companies. Once they steal your money, it’s gone. And it’s not coming back.
We had better step up.
Your attacker wants you to make dumb choices and fall deeper into their trap. It’s easy to do when you’re off balance. I did it one time, when the stakes weren’t nearly as high. If you say, “Jane, it’s okay, I’m coming,” you just gave your attacker your fiancé’s name. They’ll use that against you.
Burn this into your brain. Just because your attacker says they have your fiancé, does not mean they really do have your fiancé.
Your attacker expects you to panic. But you need to know if this is real or a con job. So, even with adrenaline washing your brain, marshal your acting skills and find out. If your fiancé is Jane, call her Mary. Ask if she’s taken her seizure meds. Feed false information to your attackers and if they try to weave it into their narrative, then you know it’s a con-job.
From here, you can simply hang up, or maybe you can manipulate them into giving away information. Maybe it’s worth the trouble to walk into a Walmart or a bank and write notes to people asking for help.
I would love to publish a blog post about a good guy winning one of these.