BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Maryland police agencies are warning people about a scam text message that has been reported several times.
Scammers will do anything for money–it’s a lesson Wendy Mueller learned when she picked up her phone several months ago.
“He said we have your daughter. You’ll see your daughter again if you do everything we tell you to do,” said Mueller.
The man at the other end of the line demanded she withdraw money–claiming he would kill her daughter if she didn’t. In a panic, she wired him several thousand dollars–before making contact with her daughter.
“I quick text my daughter and say, are you OK? And her response was yeah, why?” she said.
These virtual kidnappings have targeted parents of college students in Frostburg, College Park, and Frederick.
Criminals look for people in wealthy zip codes–finding their names–then seeing what they post on Facebook–to concoct a believable story to extort money.
But police are urging caution after countless people reported receiving a mysterious message saying someone would kill them.
Patti Hittel told WJZ what she got was far from it, a death threat from a contact she’s never seen.
“I thought, well, that is really interesting you wonder how people get your number, how they would pick you to send it to,” said Hittel.
Answers police are trying to get to the bottom of as they investigate this cell phone scam.
“The text messaging are something I haven’t seen before so it could be that the criminals are just trying to surprise people,” said John Wachter of the Baltimore County Police.
Investigators say the message itself can come from an unknown number or email.
The text reads:
“I’ve been paid to kill you, but wish to spare you. Inform the police or anyone else you die. To be spared contact this email immediately via email.”
Police tell WJZ reports of the message have been widespread all over Maryland.
“I’ve heard of incidents in Baltimore City, there’s incident involving the state police there’s also been incident in Harford County so it appears to be very big, even beyond the borders of our state,” said Wachter.
Hittel says she quickly caught on to the scam and hopes others do too.
“That somebody would be be vulnerable to that or would send money to someone to not kill them I guess and that makes me sad for someone who might have spent the money,” said Hittel.
So far police told WJZ there have been no reports of attacks or of anyone being scammed out of money.
Police including Baltimore City will continue to push out alerts warning the public to delete the message if they get it. Police say they believe the email address linked in the message is designed to try and steal your information.