Nicole Hudspeth sat on her dining room chair recounting what she described as a traumatic experience.
“Isn’t that your worst fear? That your children are helpless and you can’t help them. So they prey on you you’re vulnerability. They hit your most vulnerable spot. And that’s all I could think about. This is what I’ve always tried to protect my children from and I failed,” said Hudspeth as tears welled up in her eyes.
Hudspeth said the ordeal was surreal, like something out of a movie.
It started with a phone call just before 9am Wednesday from someone she thought was her teenage daughter.
“All I heard was crying, a girls voice and she was saying mom, today and she was crying so hard that it was really difficult for me to understand what she was saying,” Hudspeth explained.
Hudspeth said she was trying to get her to calm down, when a man came on the phone and said, “Nicole we have your daughter.”
From there things escalated. He threatened to shoot her daughter in the belly and cut off her fingers unless she paid $20,000. Nicole was afraid to hang up.
“It was shocking. Absolutely shocking to have him addressing me by my name, knowing I had a daughter,” said Hudspeth.
Despite the caller’s threats and his warning Hudspeth not to call authorities, she called 911 on her landline. She continued to ask the caller questions.
“He started getting so violent with his threats, so that’s when I tried to bring the money back into the conversation, trying to get what I knew he wanted. But when I started asking him hard questions about how exactly do you want $20,000? What is it that you want me to do? He got flustered and he hung up on me…with a threat that my daughter was going to be dead,” said Hudspeth.
She said that wasn’t even the hardest part.
“It was the waiting. When the police showed up, and it was the waiting. I still don’t have confirmation of my daughter’s location, that was the worst part,” Hudspeth explained.
Her daughter was at school and it took 15 minutes for her teachers to locate her.
Hudspeth said it was the longest 15 minutes of her life.
“When I first saw her that evening, all I did was just walk up and hold her for a long time.”
Hudspeth did file a police report to document the call in case there is a trend. She is a licensed attorney and a former military judge. She doesn’t consider herself an easy target, but she said the fact that they used her kids and knew who she was made it difficult to ignore.
The Better Business Bureau said Hudspeth was a target of a common scam known as the family emergency scam. The scam is based off of the caller urgently claiming a family member is in distress.
“It’s unfortunately a very common thing and it leaves the family members very shaken and what the scammer is trying to do is push as many buttons as hard as possible in order to make that person act,” said Jason Kama from the Better Business Bureau.
The scammer is banking on an area of uncertainty when the location of a specific family member could be unknown or questioned.
“In this case, they aimed for during the school hours so that the parent wouldn’t know exactly where the child is at that time so there would be that uncertainly that they would play off of and push those emotional buttons,” explained Kama.
Kama said it’s always important to keep your cool and not to jump to conclusions.
“In this case, the victim did all the right things. They called the authorities, they tried to locate the family member that was missing and get that piece of mind,” Kama said.
He said odds are that sending money will only make things worse.
“Following the instructions will put the family in greater jeopardy or lead to financial loss,” Kama said.
He said the best way to avoid being a target of this type of scam is being aware of what you post on social media.